October 25, 2020

Nissan’s ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn launches business program in Lebanon

Carlos Ghosn, ex-CEO Nissan, at a press conference on the second press day of the Paris International Motor Show.

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SINGAPORE — Carlos Ghosn, the scandal-hit former CEO and chairman of Nissan who fled trial in Japan, is launching a business training program to help spark economic recovery in his native, crisis-hit Lebanon.

The French-Lebanese auto executive revealed on Tuesday plans to coach business leaders, provide tech training and create start-up jobs as part of a new tie-up with the Universite Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK), a private university north of Beirut. 

The announcement comes less than two months after a devastating blast rocked the capital and compounded the economic woes of a country hampered by decades of corruption and political mismanagement. 

Ghosn, himself facing allegations of financial wrongdoing after dramatically escaping Tokyo for Beirut in December 2019, said the initiative was not politically motivated but intended to support Lebanon “during this difficult period.”

“This is about creating jobs, employment and entrepreneurs to allow society to take its role in the reconstruction of the country,” he told a news conference announcing the program.

Until his arrest in November 2018, Ghosn was widely celebrated for turning around the fortunes of Japanese car manufacturer Nissan. A Brazil-born businessman raised in Beirut, he was a towering figure in the auto industry and held key leadership positions at Renault, Mitsubishi Motors and Michelin North America.

The role model is my experience, what I think are the basic needs of a top executive in a very competitive environment.

Carlos Ghosn

former CEO and chairman on Nissan

The partnership with USEK, for which Ghosn was approached by the university shortly after his return to Lebanon late last year, is dubbed “Moving Forward.” It will focus on helping struggling companies and teaching individuals to “make yourself invaluable.”

He will be joined in his supervisory role by international executives such as Jaguar and Land Rover chief executive Thierry Bollore and former Goldman Sachs vice chairman Ken Curtis, who have agreed to give pro bono courses. 

“The role model is my experience, what I think are the basic needs of a top executive in a very competitive environment,” said Ghosn. 

The first of the courses, which is set to launch in March, will be available to 15 to 20 senior executives in Lebanon and the Middle East.

The second program focuses on providing technical training, including in areas such as computer-aided design and artificial intelligence, while the third will act as an incubator for start-ups, with a particular emphasis on environmental impact. 

“If you bring back trust, money will come,” Ghosn said. “You can have an excellent plan for Lebanon but if you don’t execute it you are not even at starting point.”

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