Fugitive Carlos Ghosn Launches Business Initiative In Lebanon As Trial Starts In Japan

You can’t make this stuff up. The saga of fugitive Carlos Ghosn has just taken another turn. On the same day as the former Nissan CEO was appearing in public in Beirut for the first time since his January press conference to unveil a new business initiative for crisis-hit Lebanon, a Nissan employee was testifying in Tokyo that he helped former Nissan executive and defendant Greg Kelly find ways to pay Ghosn without fully disclosing his compensation. A close aide of Ghosn, Kelly was arrested at the same time as his boss in late 2018.

Now at face value, these two events do not appear to be connected. But when speaking of Ghosn, the man who found a way to beat Japan’s security measures and flee the country in a private jet, nothing is ever certain. Perhaps in the near future we will learn exactly why the ex-CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance decided to reveal his new university and business program in Lebanon on the same day as the prosecution’s star witness, Toshiaki Onuma, appeared in the Tokyo District Court to testify against Greg Kelly who he says he helped package ways to benefit Ghosn with undisclosed multi-million dollar remuneration. If Kelly is found guilty, he could spend 15 years in prison or face $750,000 in fines.

Making a point to avoid any reference to the goings on in Japan, the Lebanese-French former executive unveiled a plan to build up a business school at the University Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, a private university north of Beirut. “I am not interested in politics but I will dedicate time and effort to support Lebanon during this difficult period,” he said.

Credited with rebuilding Nissan and Renault before being arrested for financial impropriety, Ghosn plans to create programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and aid start-ups to stimulate job growth in a country mired in misrule, mismanagement and corruption.

“This new initiative is about creating jobs, employment and entrepreneurs to allow society to take its role into reconstructing the country,” he added, referring to a devastating explosion that destroyed a large section of Beirut on August 4.

Ghosn was approached by the university in January who asked him to create programs to rebuild the society. Leaning on his nearly 20 years at the helm of Nissan, the executive program would aim to turn around companies in trouble, and, as he put it, “make yourself invaluable.”

Ghosn also said that several international executives had agreed to give pro bono courses, including Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Thierry Bolloré, former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman Ken Curtis and venture capitalist Raymond Debbane. 

The ex-Nissan boss commented that he has decided to work with USEK, rather than bigger Lebanese colleges, because he liked the idea of working with a university that opened its doors to a wider student base, not just wealthy families.

“I’m going to help rebuild the Lebanese economy by solving the problems of every day people,” Ghosn reiterated. One person he won’t be helping is defendant Greg Kelly in Tokyo, who, it would appear, is beyond help.

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