Carlos Ghosn headed Michelin North America before turning around Nissan

business people

Carlos Ghosn was only 35 years old in 1989 when he moved into the recently completed "Crystal Palace," a name that became attached to the $30 million green-glass headquarters overlooking Interstate 85 at Pelham Road. He held the title of president and chief operating officer until his promotion to chairman, president and chief executive officer in 1990.

That was the year Michelin completed the acquisition of Uniroyal Goodrich, making Michelin the world's largest tire company. In North America it expanded its payrolls from about 13,500 employees to 32,000.

Ghosn left the top post at Michelin North America in September 1996 to become the equivalent of an executive vice president for Renault, one of Europe's largest automakers. His job with Renault put him in charge of every phase of car manufacturing from conception to delivery.

In an interview with The Greenville News shortly before leaving South Carolina, Ghosn said he had a "wonderful career with Michelin" but described the car industry as "the mother industry."

"I've always been interested in cars."

In March 1999, the French carmaker announced it had bought a 37-percent stake in Nissan Motors and put Ghosn in charge of turning around the troubled Japanese carmaker. Renault's $5.4 billion investment created the world's fourth-largest car manufacturer at the time after General Motors, Ford and Toyota.

Analysts worried at the time that Renault has bitten off more than it could chew by attempting to save beleaguered Nissan. But Ghosn countered: "You don't know how much you have bitten off until it's in your mouth."

In May 2001, the Associated Press reported that under Ghosn's leadership, Nissan Motor Co. achieved a dramatic turnaround in earnings -- posting $2.7 billion in profits for the fiscal year ending in March. The previous year, the Japanese automaker had recorded a loss twice that size -- one of seven years of red ink in the previous eight.

Ghosn said Nissan tripled operating profits to produce the best financial results in the company's history. "Ladies and gentlemen, Nissan is back," he told reporters at a Tokyo hotel, according to AP.

Ghosn -- nicknamed "Le Cost Killer" for his successful campaign at Renault -- also sold off a great deal of Nissan assets, including stocks, real estate and stakes in its bloated network of affiliates, gaining $2.8 billion, the AP reported.

In 2001, Ghosn was chosen as one of Japan's "best fathers" of the year by Japan Men's Fashion Unity, which organized the award and said Ghosn had acted as a strong father as he revamped Nissan.

In 2007, Nissan announced that Ghosn would give up his role overseeing its U.S. operations as part of a shake-up to strengthen management at the Japanese automaker. Ghosn remained CEO of both Nissan Motor Co., Japan's No. 3 automaker, and its alliance partner Renault SA of France.