A charismatic leader, a hard-nosed cost cutter who loved big paychecks, a dictator -- these were just a few of the many faces of former Nissan Motor Co. chief Carlos Ghosn as described by people who worked with him as subordinates at the automaker now rocked by his arrest over alleged financial misconduct.
Ghosn, who has been detained by Japanese authorities since Nov. 19 along with his close aide Greg Kelly, is suspected of failing to state in Nissan's securities reports a part of the remuneration he was set to receive after his retirement.
While some suggested they were not surprised by the allegations of financial misconduct against Ghosn, others said they felt they were partly to blame for what they said were the excessive powers he was allowed to wield.
"He was an excellent manager," said a former managing director, referring to drastic reforms carried out under Ghosn's leadership.
Ghosn, who was sent from French auto giant Renault SA to help turn around Nissan in 1999, immediately set about implementing his Nissan Revival Plan and was credited with rescuing the Japanese carmaker from the verge of bankruptcy.
"Reforming the sectionalist corporate culture and carrying out projects in a cross-sectional manner were revolutionary. Many companies adopted Nissan's reform methods," said the former managing director.
Another former Nissan executive recalled, "Ghosn and everyone under him were working desperately on the revival."
But others were more critical of Ghosn, who earned the reputation of being a "cost cutter" for shutting down factories and cutting jobs, a controversial move in a country where lifelong employment is not uncommon.
A former executive in charge of sales at Nissan said that unlike his predecessors Ghosn fired employees without hesitation and that he was fixated on his own rewards.
Ghosn did not visit the factories he was shuttering, the former executive said, adding, "He is the kind of person who fears criticism of himself to an extreme degree. He probably didn't want to take the full brunt of criticism."
Another former executive said, "I thought he might eventually be mired in money problems," but added, "We are partly to blame for the rise of the dictator called Ghosn."
Aside from the immediate charge on which he has been indicted, Ghosn is suspected of making the company shoulder his personal expenses, such as family trips and private dining.
"All the money and personal management were under Ghosn's control," an incumbent senior official said, arguing that Nissan had no choice but to contact prosecutors to address his alleged wrongdoing given the power he wielded within the company.