Jan 3, 2020

Wanted: The fugitive CEO

Carlos Ghosn was under house arrest in Japan before fleeing to Lebanon last weekend. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

When Carlos Ghosn simultaneously ran Nissan and Renault, he skipped freely across the globe, racking up 150,000 flying miles a year. But he probably never made a trip like the one he took the night before New Year's Eve.

Catch up fast: The former CEO of Nissan and Renault somehow eluded 24-hour surveillance in Japan, where he is facing trial on financial misconduct charges, and turned up in Lebanon, saying he had escaped the "rigged Japanese justice system."

  • "I have not fled justice. I have escaped injustice and political persecution," Ghosn said in a statement.

Everything about this story is incredible, but perhaps no detail more intriguing than his alleged getaway vehicle: a large musical instrument case.

  • Citing TV news reports in Lebanon, the New York Post reported that a group of mercenaries posing as musicians entered Ghosn's Tokyo home, purportedly for a holiday concert, and later departed with the five-foot-six-inch Ghosn hiding inside a box, perhaps a six-foot-tall double-base case.
  • Worthy of a movie scene, those reports haven't been corroborated by Axios or other media, and the circumstances of his arrival in Lebanon remain shrouded in mystery.
  • Investigations are underway in Japan and Turkey, where the private plane he took from Tokyo stopped before he arrived in Beirut.
  • Seven airport staff and pilots were being questioned in Istanbul, per the FT, and Interpol issued a red notice — a Wanted poster, essentially — seeking Ghosn's arrest in Lebanon.

Ghosn's escape followed months of planning by associates, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

  • But Ghosn, countering rumors, insisted his wife, Carole, was not involved.
  • "I alone organized my departure," the 65-year-old said. "My family had no role whatsoever."

What to watch: Ghosn, who maintains his innocence, is planning a news conference for Wednesday. He's unlikely to reveal details behind his escape, but he will most certainly unleash pent-up anger against Japanese prosecutors and his corporate rivals at Nissan and Renault. Talk about must-see TV.

Go deeper... Former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn: I fled Japan to Lebanon to escape injustice

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Carlos Ghosn: Interpol red notice out for ex-Nissan boss

Ghosn on a rainy Tokyo day, thinking it might be time for a getaway. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Interpol on Thursday issued a red notice asking Lebanon to arrest Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman who fled house arrest in Japan for Beirut.

Driving the news: Investigations into Ghosn’s escape are underway in Japan and Turkey, where the private plane he took from Tokyo stopped. Seven airport staff and pilots were arrested in Istanbul, per the FT.

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Podcast: Carlos Ghosn unboxed

After his daring escape from Japan, where he was under house arrest, former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn held an hours-long press conference in Beirut on Wednesday. Dan and The New York Times' International Correspondent Vivian Yee dig into what he said and what comes next.

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Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn was in pugnacious form on Wednesday during a 145-minute press conference in Beirut, at which he proclaimed his innocence while simultaneously bemoaning the underperformance of the Nissan share price.

By the numbers: Since Ghosn was arrested in November, Nissan's enterprise value has declined to $85 billion from $96 billion, a rate of roughly $36 million per trading day.

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