A top Nissan executive and ally of Carlos Ghosn has resigned, the company said, in a first shake-up at the Japanese automaker since the arrest of the former Chairman. Jose Munoz, who went on leave of absence a week ago, oversaw business strategy for Nissan's seven regional and business units and had direct oversight of the company's China operations, Efe news reported.
His future had been in question following the November 19 arrest of Ghosn in Japan and criticism from current Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa, who had blamed the company's recent profitability struggles on its US strategy. Munoz had been considered a potential successor to Saikawa.
Munoz, in a statement posted on LinkedIn and confirmed by his spokesman, said he would continue to assist Nissan in its investigation into alleged financial misconduct involving Ghosn and colleague Greg Kelly. Ghosn and Kelly have denied any wrongdoing.
"Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus," Munoz said in the statement.
Nissan's investigation into alleged financial misdeeds by Ghosn expanded since his ouster as Chairman at a November 22 board meeting. The team looking into Ghosn's actions grew to include over 100 people around the world, according to Nissan.
Ghosn, who was charged on December 10 with failing to report his compensation accurately in Nissan's financial statements, has remained in a Tokyo jail since his arrest. Prosecutors hit him with fresh charges of abusing his position at the automaker for personal gain.
Munoz, a native of Spain, joined Nissan in 2004 and was named President of Nissan's Mexico operations five years later. Taking over as Chairman of Nissan's North American operations in 2014, he led the car maker through robust growth and record US sales.
He was appointed to the role of chief performance officer in 2016. Munoz said in his statement he would explore new opportunities and was looking forward to remaining a part of the auto industry.