Car Industry’s Sun King - from Versailles to Prison
Police searched Paris-based Renault’s headquarters on Wednesday as part of an investigation that links the carmaker’s former chairman and a luxurious Marie Antoinette-themed wedding at Versailles Palace.
Carlos Ghosn, 65, former chairman of a French-Japanese strategic partnership Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, organized in October 2016 his wedding, but also his second wife’s birthday party, in a luxurious 18th century aristocratic manner.
As Le Monde described, Brazil-born French businessman threw the Marie Antoinette-themed 120-guest party at the Versailles’ Grand Trianon, surrounded by models dressed in light silk clothes and wearing powdered wigs, evoking the times of the Sun King - Louis XIV and his wife.
Meals and wines were served in antique dishes while an orchestra was playing minuet.
The usual price for the party is over US$56.000, though the problem is that Ghosn did not actually pay for it, but covered the costs with a sponsorship deal between the state-owned palace and Renault.
More than 20 officers conducted the search at the auto maker’s headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, less than a month after Ghosn’s house near Paris was also searched.
The latest raid was directly linked to the marriage reception, as The New York Times reported quoting Emmanuelle Lepissier, the chief administrative officer of the public prosecutor's department in Nanterre, which is overseeing the investigation.
Renault’s officials did not comment on the police operation, but confirmed the search, stressing that the company “is fully cooperating with the authorities.”
The Versailles wedding was not the only expensive and eccentric move of the French businessman. Together with his wife Carole, according to AFP, last year he invited friends, eight couples, to a $260,000 Carnival party in Brazil, then charged it to his employers - Nissan and Renault.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan upon his arrival in Tokyo in November 2018, on allegations of under-reporting his earnings and misuse of Nissan’s assets. He was immediately dismissed as the company’s CEO, and a few days later he was also dismissed from the Mitsubishi board, while he personally resigned as the Renault’s CEO in January this year.
Ghosn was released after spending some 100 days in jail, but then arrested again in April this year under charges of financial misconduct ranging from concealing part of his salary from shareholders to syphoning off some $5 million from Nissan for his personal use, as AFP reported earlier this year.
After keeping him for 21 days in detention, Japanese authorities, however, decided to release him on $4.5 million bail and under strict restrictions, including so-called “approval system” to see his wife Carole whom he married at Versailles and partied with in Brazil.
Under the bail, Ghosn must not leave Japan and must live in a residence appointed by the court, under video surveillance to prevent him of possible destruction of evidence.
Ghosn’s criminal deeds, according to media, shocked the business world, but also set tensions between the alliance partners Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.