Hiroto Saikawa's tone bordered on defiant on Sept. 8 when discussing his future as chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. He accepted responsibility for the Carlos Ghosn scandals and said he'd resign after a successor was found, but he wasn't taking the fall for a burgeoning controversy over his pay.

That strategy blew up 24 hours later when the embattled carmaker's board pushed him out, citing his excess compensation. Saikawa's last day will be Monday, and the board is looking at a pool of about 10 candidates for the job, probably one of the most challenging in global auto-making.

The end of Saikawa's four-decade career came in a conference room at Nissan's Yokohama headquarters, where board members met for more than five hours on Sept. 9 — with some joining by video from overseas, according to people familiar with the matter. Nissan declined to comment on board discussions and declined to make Saikawa available for comment.