Renault board votes to replace chief executive Thierry Bollore

French automaker's chief financial officer Clotilde Delbos will be the acting chief executive

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 10, 2019 CEO of French carmaker Renault Thierry Bollore smiles during a press day at the IAA Car Show in Frankfurt. Renault's new chairman will ask the French carmaker's board to find a successor to chief executive Thierry Bollore as the company still reels from the fallout of the Carlos Ghosn scandal. / AFP / Tobias SCHWARZ
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Renault ousted chief executive Thierry Bollore just days after partner Nissan Motor chose a new chief executive, a sign the carmakers are seeking to move past the Carlos Ghosn era and repair their troubled alliance.

Renault’s board named chief financial officer Clotilde Delbos as an interim chief executive, and will begin looking for a permanent replacement, according to a statement on Friday. Mr Bollore, who served as Mr Ghosn’s second-in-command before taking the helm in January, will leave immediately.

In naming Ms Delbos, Renault has chosen an insider in a bid to minimise further disruption at the carmaker, which has been struggling over the past year to overcome the shock of Mr Ghosn’s arrest as well as a cooling of the global auto industry. She will be flanked by two new deputy managing directors - Olivier Murguet and Jose-Vincente de los Mozos.

“This comes as another blow for a company that urgently needs direction and stability,” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in a note. “We are worried that Renault’s competitive position will further erode in an automotive world that’s getting tougher by the day.”

Mr Ghosn headed Renault and Nissan for years and held their two-decade partnership together until his arrest last November in Japan on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied. His downfall exposed poor corporate governance at Nissan and brought long-simmering tensions between the automakers to a boil.

Resolving their differences is a priority for Renault’s chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and would be a prerequisite to reviving merger discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, scrapped earlier this year after Nissan failed to back a deal.

Mr Bollore has had tense relations with Mr Senard and has been viewed negatively by Nissan and the French government as a holdover from Mr Ghosn era. The French state holds a 15 per cent stake in Renault.

In an interview with Les Echos, a French financial newspaper, published on Thursday, Mr Bollore denounced the move to oust him and defended his record. He said he found out through the press that Mr Senard wanted him to leave and called on the French state, as a shareholder, not to destabilise Renault.

“The brutality and totally unexpected nature of what’s taking place are astonishing,” Mr Bollore told the newspaper. “On an operational level, I don’t see where the fault lies.”

One recruiting firm was already identified to carry out a search, said two people with knowledge of the matter. The company didn’t give a timetable for naming a permanent successor.