Business / Corporate

Companies led by ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn donated to his children's school and Paris ball

Bloomberg

Companies headed by Carlos Ghosn, the embattled former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, made donations to his children’s school and the posh debutantes’ ball in Paris where his daughters were presented.

The contributions, first reported by L’Express Magazine, were confirmed by the organizations involved.

The gifts are the latest revelations about Ghosn’s use of company funds, including an extended weekend for eight couples at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival and lavish events at the Versailles Palace. The disclosures come as the carmakers audit the Dutch company that oversees their partnership, with the conclusions expected by the end of March. The alliance had a budget of €900,000 in 2018 for “donations and sponsors,” L’Express said.

Ghosn, 64, was released on bail Wednesday after being held for 108 days in a Tokyo prison on charges of underreporting his income and breach of trust at Nissan. Gaining his liberty will allow him more time to prepare his legal defense for a trial that may be months away, and to defend himself in the court of public opinion. He has denied wrongdoing.

The Renault-Nissan alliance and Ghosn’s family are listed as donors by the American School of Paris for the construction of its new campus, which includes a “Ghosn room.” His son Anthony attended the school, as did his daughter Maya, according to her LinkedIn profile. In a statement, the school said the auto alliance “has been a valued partner.”

Renault began supporting the debutantes’ ball in Paris, an event typically held each year for 25 young high-society women, a decade ago. Ghosn’s daughter Nadine attended in 2005, and Caroline in 2006, while Anthony put in an appearance in 2013, said Ophelie Renouard, the ball’s organizer.

Renouard invited the Ghosn daughters after she saw their father on the cover of the French magazine Le Nouvel Economiste in 2005 and was struck by his international profile and links to Asia, she said. Ghosn was named CEO of Renault that year. He served as Nissan CEO from 2001 to 2017.

The sponsorship relationship was “legitimate,” Renouard said, and involved the use of Twingo cars, with Renault getting a table at the event. “Renault was seeking positive coverage in Asia, where we are quite strong, with a presence in China, Japan and the Philippines,” she said.

The sponsorship for the 2019 edition of the ball was signed in October, according to Renouard, who personally invited Anthony Ghosn to attend the glitzy event in 2013, when his father and sister Nadine also joined.

A spokeswoman for the Ghosn family said Renault had a sponsorship relationship with the debutantes’ ball that helped the carmakers’ image, as well as a policy to support the schools attended by the children of its expatriate staff. It’s not unusual for international companies to make such contributions, she said.

Spokesmen for Renault and the Renault-Nissan alliance declined to comment.

Ghosn was ousted as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shortly after his November arrest and resigned in January as chairman and chief executive officer of Renault, thus losing his position atop the alliance. His downfall has triggered tension within the carmaking pact, which is intertwined by cross-shareholdings.