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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  Tokyo  >  Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.    7201   JP3672400003

NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.

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Nissan Motor : Carole Ghosn Steps Up in Husband's Fight

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01/22/2020 | 02:48am EST

By Nick Kostov in Beirut and Sean McLain in Tokyo

Carlos Ghosn's arrest in November 2018 thrust his wife, Carole Ghosn, into battles she wasn't expecting to fight: against Nissan Motor Co., the company her husband ran, and the Japanese justice system.

It was Mrs. Ghosn, 53 years old, who visited the auto executive in a Tokyo jail, bringing him tangerines and reporting back on Japan's spartan prison conditions. She lobbied world leaders, from President Trump to Emmanuel Macron of France, to demand her husband's release. And when Mr. Ghosn made his daring escape from Japan last month, Mrs. Ghosn was there for his arrival in Beirut, ignoring an order from a Japanese court to have no contact with her husband.

Throughout the saga, Mrs. Ghosn cast the Japanese justice system as bent on condemning her husband -- and keeping the couple apart. Prosecutors have charged the 65-year-old Mr. Ghosn with hiding millions in deferred compensation and misappropriating Nissan funds, accusations he denies.

"I was determined," Mrs. Ghosn said in an email interview with The Wall Street Journal. "I know my husband is innocent and was falsely accused."

Mrs. Ghosn's allegiance to her husband has drawn her directly into the sights of Japanese authorities. On Jan. 7, Tokyo prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Mrs. Ghosn on charges she lied under oath about contact with witnesses.

Prosecutors allege Mrs. Ghosn met an executive from a Nissan dealership in Oman and urged him not to cooperate with investigators. They also allege she urged a Lebanese Nissan dealer to leave Lebanon and avoid contact with anyone at the Japanese car maker. Prosecutors based these accusations on messages sent from Mrs. Ghosn's phone, which they confiscated in April, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Mrs. Ghosn denied that she tried to influence witnesses, suggesting the charges were an attempt by Japanese prosecutors to intimidate her. "I have nothing to do with the case," she said. "This is pathetic."

It was Mrs. Ghosn's role in her husband's transactions that initially led Japanese authorities to restrict contact between the couple.

Mrs. Ghosn is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands-based firm called Beauty Yachts, the shell company that owns a 120-foot yacht used by the Ghosn family. She also decorated the yacht.

In 2015, the Ghosns purchased the $12 million yacht, using money sent by Divyendu Kumar, an executive from the Omani dealership, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Kumar is one of the witnesses whom Japanese prosecutors accuse Mrs. Ghosn of contacting after her husband's arrest.

Mr. Kumar couldn't be reached for comment.

Nissan investigators allege that Mr. Ghosn funneled the money to Mr. Kumar from marketing payments that the Japanese car maker made to the dealership, according to people familiar with the criminal investigation. Mr. Ghosn has said all Nissan payments to the Omani dealer were legitimate, and denied ever receiving any of the Nissan money.

In April, Mrs. Ghosn testified in a Japanese court that she was unaware of the source of the funds used to buy the yacht.

After Mr. Ghosn was released on bail later that month, he was prohibited from speaking to his wife without court approval -- which he received only twice. On both occasions, the Ghosns spoke for about an hour through a video link with a lawyer present, after a judge signed off on topics that were acceptable for them to discuss.

"It was so hard, so humiliating knowing that we could not have intimacy as a couple and knowing that our conversation will be reported to the judge and the prosecutor," Mrs. Ghosn said.

Born in Beirut in 1966, Mrs. Ghosn grew up in New York before attending the American University of Beirut and New York University. She has three children from her first marriage, to a Lebanese-American banker. About a decade ago, Mrs. Ghosn and an associate started a company that sold caftans handmade in Lebanon.

In 2016, she wed Mr. Ghosn in a civil ceremony in Paris, the second marriage for both. In October of that year they held a joint celebration of their wedding and Mrs. Ghosn's 50th birthday at a palace on the grounds of Versailles -- a sumptuous event that has come under scrutiny by French prosecutors. The party for 120 guests featured towers of pastries and actors in powdered wigs. Town & Country called it "a wedding fit for a king and queen."

Mrs. Ghosn said she was flying back to New York when Mr. Ghosn was arrested. She learned of it from one of her sons.

"I was shocked and could not believe it and first thought this was a mistake," she said.

When her husband was first released on bail in March, she lived with him in a small one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo for about a month. When Mr. Ghosn was sent back to jail a month later on suspicions related to the Omani dealer, Mrs. Ghosn resumed her regular appearances on television to fight for his release.

Mrs. Ghosn said she struggled with her inability to speak to her husband following his second release on bail, but the last straw was the length of time it was taking to set a date for trial. "There was no end to this nightmare," she said.

Life has begun to settle down after the whirlwind weeks that followed her husband's arrival in Beirut.

The couple is living inside a 5,000-square-foot house that Nissan purchased for Mr. Ghosn's use years before the scandal erupted. Mrs. Ghosn supervised the pink-colored building's renovation, which was also funded by Nissan, including the excavation of two sarcophagi that are visible beneath a glass floor leading to the wine cellar.

Her husband is working with his lawyers and public-relations advisers to restore his battered reputation. Nissan and the Ghosns are in a legal battle over the house where the couple now resides. Mr. Ghosn wants to purchase the property from Nissan, while the company is seeking to evict them.

At night, Mrs. Ghosn is restless. "I still wake up at night to check he is really here," she said.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com and Sean McLain at sean.mclain@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD. -0.12% 504 End-of-day quote.-20.09%
RENAULT 2.98% 32.66 Real-time Quote.-24.81%
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Financials (JPY)
Sales 2020 10 348 B
EBIT 2020 121 B
Net income 2020 100 B
Debt 2020 6 550 B
Yield 2020 1,98%
P/E ratio 2020 19,6x
P/E ratio 2021 8,28x
EV / Sales2020 0,82x
EV / Sales2021 0,80x
Capitalization 1 974 B
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Mean consensus HOLD
Number of Analysts 22
Average target price 708,00  JPY
Last Close Price 504,40  JPY
Spread / Highest target 193%
Spread / Average Target 40,4%
Spread / Lowest Target 1,11%
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Managers
NameTitle
Makoto Uchida Executive President & Chief Executive Officer
Yasushi Kimura Chairman
Ashwani Gupta COO & Representative Executive Officer
Stephen Ma Chief Financial Officer & Executive Officer
Anthony Thomas Chief Information Officer
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