News that Renault is to lead a TV fightback in the vitriolic war of words that is increasingly characterising the entrenched battle with its three sacked executives, will come as some relief to the automaker’s shareholders, not the least of which is the French government.
Renault president and CEO Carlos Ghosn is to break what has been quite a silence from the manufacturer this week since its decision to launch a judicial investigation on 13 January, with his live appearance on French TV station TF1’s news bulletin this weekend.
During the last seven days, two executives – not named by Renault but who have come forward nonetheless as those sacked by the automaker – have conducted a relentless media blitz in front of the microphones to protest their innocence and to start their own counter-measures alleging defamation and false accusation.
Several calls to Renault from just-auto have elicited a firm series of ‘no comments,’ but a spokeswoman in Paris did reveal today (20 January) Ghosn would appear live on French national television this Sunday (23 January) evening.
‘Le journal de 20h’ is TF1’s nightly news flagship and as such, will allow Ghosn to put Renault’s case as much as French law will allow and provide some sort of antidote to the sacked trio’s onslaught.
It must have been pretty frustrating for Renault this week as the dismissed executives appeared in a blizzard of publicity, with some pretty high-profile lawyers putting their side to boot. So Ghosn’s appearance will be highly anticipated, although whether he will be able to go into detail remains unclear.
In particular, will he be able to elaborate on French Industry Minister Eric Besson’s intriguing remarks of only a few days ago, that hinted the politician knew more than he could let on following a meeting with Renault COO Patrick Pelata?
“I know a certain number of things in private, as I met Renault COO Pelata, who explained a certain number of things,” said Besson tantalisingly, without elaborating on his mysterious language.
Language has formed a key plank of the affair, with both sides using extremely tough words as the fur continues to fly.
Renault used some no-nonsense terms in its initial complaint against the three senior executives, not the least of which included “industrial espionage, corruption, breach of trust, theft and concealment.”
Meanwhile a lawyer for Michel Balthazard, a name supposedly connected with the affair, has highlighted what he perceives as an assault on the very character of his client as the basis for his false accusation claim in some hard-hitting language of his own.
“Michel Balthazard’s honour has been very seriously attacked – this is the false accusation [claim],” he said.
France takes the issue of privacy to heart – attacking someone’s honour may appear to be an old-fashioned view but is not to be downplayed in Paris.
What room for manoeuvre Ghosn will have on national television remains unknown, but it’s clear he feels he must reply using his own words in the media battle – or risk sympathy transferring to the embattled execs.