Nissan Motors’ Carlos Ghosn is stepping back from the day-to-day management of the sprawling auto empire he’s headed for 16 years, though he insists he won’t be taking a back seat.
Recognized for turning the Japanese car maker around, Ghosn already was stretching himself through his co-leadership of partner Renault, aligned with Nissan through a cross-shareholding since 1999.
The alliance grew even bigger last year, when Nissan took a 36% stake in Mitsubishi Motors while its Japanese rival was reeling from a fuel-cheating scandal.
There are other CEOs out there managing two companies at once, including Elon Musk at Tesla Motors and SpaceX; and Jack Dorsey at Twitter and Square. But it’s rare to find anyone so heavily involved in the management of three blue-chip enterprises.
Amid concerns from some investors that Ghosn had too much on his plate, the 62-year-old is standing down as Nissan CEO, to be replaced by his deputy Hiroto Saikawa. Ghosn will remain CEO of Renault and the chairman of all three alliance companies.
“Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right,” Ghosn said in a statement.
“This planned change will also allow me to devote more time and energy to managing the strategic and operational evolution and expansion of the alliance—and ensuring that all its members benefit from the competitive advantages that its scale will deliver.”
These are tumultuous times for auto companies, who’s patch has been trodden by electric car makers such as Tesla Motors and developers of autonomous driving technology such as Google.
Ghosn’s decision comes just days after GM entered early-stage talks to sell its European arm to Peugeot-owner PSA to allow CEO Mary Barra to focus on more profitable endeavors.