• Statement backing Ghosn signed by 10 of 19 board members
  • Independent directors oppose French effort to get more votes

Renault SA’s board of directors supported Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn in his clash with the French government over its attempt to increase its influence on the carmaker.

Renault board members including former Danone SA CEO Franck Riboud, former Hermes International CEO Patrick Thomas and Cherie Blair oppose the government’s attempt to leverage a new rule, the so-called Florange law, to get double voting rights as a long-term investor, according to a statement sent Thursday. The comment was signed by the 10 independent directors on the 19-member board. Not signatory were representatives of Renault’s employees, its partner Nissan Motor Co. and the French state.

Sticking to one vote per share is "the means to protect the balance in the Renault-Nissan alliance," the board’s statement said, referring to Renault’s cross-shareholding partnership with Japanese carmaker Nissan, in which the French manufacturer holds a 43.4 percent stake. "The Board considers this alliance as essential for the continuity of Renault and that the adoption of a double vote would be a destabilizing factor."

The structure of the alliance has become a source of tension after the French government bought a bigger stake in Renault without warning Ghosn, who’s CEO of both carmakers. The move gives France, which now has 19.7 percent of Renault’s shares, more influence over the group than Nissan, which is responsible for most of its profit.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has said that all he wanted to do was stop Ghosn from convincing the rest of Renault’s shareholders to scrap double voting rights. France vowed to sell back its additional 4.7 percent stake when market conditions have improved. It hasn’t given a more concrete time frame.

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