Thierry Bolloré, new strong man at Renault and the Alliance?
The sudden fall of Carlos Ghosn, until now undisputed leader of the Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi Alliance has shaken the world. Who is Thierry Bolloré, his supposed successor at Renault in four years, who has to come to the forefront much sooner…?
At the Renault board meeting yesterday, Thierry Bolloré, since February of this year confirmed as COO at Renault, has been appointed temporary CEO of the manufacturer (Carlos Ghosn staying CEO for the moment “but temporarily not capable of exerting his functions”). The most logical choice for a company in turmoil, as Bolloré had been installed eight months ago as ‘dauphin’ to take over the Renault leadership in four years.
The board has also indicated that it will meet regularly with both Nissan and Mitsubishi under the presidency of Philippe Lagayette, referential administrator, “to secure the Renault interests and to preserve the survival of the Alliance”.
Who is Thierry Bolloré?
Thierry Bolloré is a 55-year-old Breton (born in Quimper, passionate sailor, father of five), who has been in the car business for 28 years now. He has no family ties with another French industrial figure from the same region, Vincent Bolloré.
Like Ghosn himself, he started his career at tyre manufacturer Michelin. After his MBA at the Université Paris Dauphine, he was soon detected as a high potential and asked in 1990 to lead a section of a Michelin truck tyre manufacturing plant in Poitiers (France).
It’s a job where he has to travel frequently to the Americas and in 1997 he goes to Japan for the first time to work in the Ohta tyre factory, while one year later he moves to Thailand to lead the activities for truck and airplane tyres. “His past in the tyre business must have struck Ghosn, who has always been very influenced by his first 18 years working for Michelin”, a car expert observes.
In 2005 Bolloré moves to French car industry supplier, Faurecia, (now belonging to the PSA Group) and becomes vice president for Asia before being promoted to vice president worldwide, responsible for marketing, R&D and development strategy. Later he occupied himself with streamlining production, build quality and purchasing, and these qualities made him make the step to Renault in 2012.
At Renault he dedicates himself to enhance competitiveness and becomes quickly a very important person within the organization. At the beginning of this year this was confirmed by being appointed the official number two at the French manufacturer after the inexpugnable Carlos Ghosn. Until now…
As a person, Thierry Bolloré is known as being very serious, meticulous but also with a warm personality. He is appreciated as an outspoken but also very loyal person, who also accepts criticism and knows how to listen to people.
Thierry Bolloré is facing a difficult task. Of course, Nissan has been saved by Carlos Ghosn now 20 years ago but meanwhile the Japanese number two represents 60% of total turnover of the Alliance and more than half of the total production.
The company seems more and more frustrated of the minor role it has played until now within the Alliance (Renault also detaining 43% of the Nissan shares while Nissan has only 15% in Renault) and now sees an opportunity to change this. Some French observers even detect a Japanese conspiracy against the (until now) undisputed leader, Carlos Ghosn.
Thierry Bolloré will have to steer the Alliance into safer waters again, most probably with another balance inside the Alliance, with a more important role for the Japanese, while the French state, still major shareholder of Renault (15% of shares and 22% of votes) will be looking over his shoulder.
Some doubt whether he has enough body to achieve this and are already talking of Carlos Tavares (now CEO of the PSA Group but former number two at Renault) coming back to the Alliance to do the job. Maybe they underestimate this calm, meticulous, diplomatic but strong-minded Breton a little bit. Future will tell.