Like Marie Antoinette, Carlos Ghosn’s problems worsened after a series of extravagant parties at the Palace of Versailles.
When the former Nissan boss and international fugitive married his second wife Carole Nahas Marshi in 2016, he threw a lavish party for 120 guests at the sprawling 17th-century chateau on the outskirts of Paris that once housed the ill-fated last queen of France. .
Guests in black ties and long dresses gathered for the lavish banquet which was also Carole’s 50th birthday celebration. They dined on Limoges china and drank vintage wine from Ghosn’s Ixsir vineyard in Lebanon. The four-foot wedding cake was a choux pastry pyramid draped in fondant white flowers. Antique tables overflowed with pastel-colored macaroons, strawberries and grapes as guests mingled with actors dressed in powdered pompadour wigs.
“We wanted it to feel like we were inviting guests into our house — nothing too studied,” Carole Ghosn told ‘Town and Country,’ which featured photos of the sultry blonde in a stunning green taffeta dress embellished with golden flowers by the Parisian designer. Rabih Kayrouz.
“When you invite people to a party, they say maybe,” said Carole, a Lebanese-born New Yorker. “When you invite them to Versailles, they will come.”
Carole Ghosn spoke from experience, as the wedding was the couple’s second time hosting at Versailles. The first dates back to 2014 when Ghosn personally invited 160 people to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the alliance between Nissan and Renault. But the March 9 dinner, which was hosted by celebrity French chef Alain Ducasse and featured an elaborate fireworks display, coincided with Ghosn’s 60th birthday, not the birth of the joint venture on March 27, 1999.
Most of the guests at the Louis XIV-inspired dinner were friends of the couple from around the world, according to the French press. Only a handful of attendees were employees of the auto giants, according to BFM TV in France, which secured the exclusive guest list. Following the festivities, a 28-page photo album was emailed to all guests, and a video shot by professionals of the evening was produced.
“As usual, I count on your total discretion on this event,” warned the last line of Ghosn’s invitation.
Long known as “The Cost Cutter” in France, the maverick leader had been credited with saving the automakers he oversaw from bankruptcy, largely by ruthlessly cutting jobs, cutting spending and streamlining operations.
At over $700,000, the price of the Versailles party would prove inconvenient as a business expense, and questions would also arise in France as to who paid for the extravagant wedding reception/birthday party. of his wife.
In November 2018, Japanese authorities accused Ghosn of embezzling company funds for his own benefit and underreporting his earnings by tens of millions of dollars – his salary and stock options totaled $17 million. dollars in 2017.
Two weeks ago he escaped to Lebanon in an instrument case from Japan where he was out on bail pending trial. Among the issues that seemed to bother his Nissan bosses the most were images of a Ghosn in a tuxedo happily waving to guests at the Galerie des Grandes Batailles, the largest hall in the Palace of Versailles where 15 centuries of French military victories are held. depicted on its walls.
Carlos Ghosn, 65, was not always so rich or extravagant.
His family has humble roots in the Brazilian Amazon where his grandfather, Bichara Ghosn, first settled at the age of 13, an illiterate emigrant from Lebanon. The elder Ghosn went in search of El Dorado in the hinterland, and chained odd jobs to Porto Velho on the Madeira River, a tributary of the Amazon, where many Syrian and Lebanese immigrants settled. settled in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although he quickly made a living in the Brazilian aeronautical industry, Bichara Ghosn, a Maronite Christian, always dreamed of relocating to his dear native country.
“The Maronites who emigrated maintained their loyalty to Lebanon and to their family members who remained in the old country,” wrote Carlos Ghosn in his 2003 book “Shift: Inside Nissan’s Historic Revival”. “They send money. They pay to build a house in their ancestral village and visit it from time to time.
Ghosn would follow his grandfather’s lead, investing heavily in a winery and other real estate projects in Lebanon – a move that would ultimately save his life after he launched his dramatic escape from Tokyo to Beirut at the end of the year. last year.
Ghosn was born in Porto Velho on March 9, 1954, but after a childhood illness his mother moved him to “the old country” where he studied at an elite Jesuit school in Beirut. After high school, Ghosn left for Paris where he enrolled in a prestigious engineering school and met his first wife Rita Kordahi, a pharmacy student who, like Ghosn himself, loves bridge. She also has Lebanese roots.
They married in 1984 when Ghosn was 30, and a year later they took off for Rio de Janeiro, where the rising star of the company was put in charge of the South American operations of the Michelin tire company. . Ghosn was so successful in restructuring the company and helping it become profitable that his bosses in Paris put him in charge of their US operations.
The Ghosns moved with their young family – they have four children – to South Carolina where the corporate titan was eventually promoted to CEO of Michelin North America in 1990. Six years later the family moved to Paris where he ran Renault’s operations. In 1999, when Renault and Nissan formed their alliance, executives brought in Ghosn as chief executive. In 2001 he was appointed CEO of Nissan and uprooted his family again – this time to Tokyo.
But following Ghosn around the world was difficult for Rita who had abandoned her own career plans to raise her family and support Ghosn’s successful trajectory, according to French press reports. In 2012, their marriage was over.
“All narcissists are hypocrites,” Rita Ghosn said in a social media post shortly after her arrest. “They claim to have morals and values that they don’t really have. Behind closed doors, they lie, insult, criticize, disrespect and abuse. They can do and say whatever they want, but how dare you say anything to them or criticize them?
Friends of the couple said much of the bitterness stemmed from Ghosn’s relationship with Carole Nahas Marshi, an Upper East Side-based mother of three who was married to Lebanese-born banker Marwan Marshi.
Along with Carole, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who once ran a high-end caftan business, Ghosn suddenly became a bold name on the European social circuit. Often photographed holding hands, the happy couple regularly attended glittering charity events, the Cannes Film Festival and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. They flew aboard a lavish executive jet to Ghosn’s sprawling homes in Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Beirut – all multimillion-dollar properties that Ghosn convinced Nissan to buy for him . His French lawyers recently defended the purchases, saying it was much cheaper for the company to house him in a series of private residences when he was traveling on business than to pay for high-end hotel rooms for Ghosn and his security team.
Since New Year’s Eve, the couple, who had not been allowed to see each other for months while Ghosn was imprisoned in Japan, have been happily settled into their $15million salmon-colored mansion in Beirut. The property’s $6 million renovations, funded by Nissan, include expensive antiques and portraits of the former CEO.
“I did not flee justice – I escaped injustice and political persecution,” insisted a daring Ghosn during a press conference that spanned more than two hours in Beirut last night. last week, during which he alternated answering reporters’ questions in Arabic, French, Portuguese and English. Ghosn holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality, and is loved in Lebanon where President Michel Aoun met him hours after his arrival last month. Some Lebanese politicians had always hoped that the man who saved Nissan would one day do the same for the country and encourage Ghosn to run for office. In 2017, the country issued a postage stamp with his face on it. Although Lebanese authorities banned him from traveling outside the country last week, they said they would not comply with an Interpol “red notice” to extradite Ghosn to Japan.
Japan last week asked Interpol to arrest Carole Ghosn, wanted in Japan for giving false testimony about her husband during a court appearance in Japan in April. Like her husband, Carole Ghosn is a Lebanese citizen.
In addition to strenuously denying allegations of financial crimes, Ghosn has accused Japanese law enforcement and former corporate colleagues of conspiring against him to plot his downfall. After his arrest in 2018, Ghosn spent 14 months in prison and under house arrest. He was often interrogated without a lawyer present and cut off from his family, he said.
As well as his troubles in Japan, Ghosn also addressed his parties at Versailles last week, which have been the subject of ongoing investigations in France. Nissan auditors are investigating Renault-Nissan BV, a Dutch company that Japanese authorities said was used by Ghosn to finance his lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of a yacht and various homes around the world.
Ghosn said he did not pay to rent Versailles for his wife’s birthday in 2016 because renovations to the palace were funded by Renault. Somehow, the $55,000 prize for the party was deducted from the “credit that Renault earns by being a sponsor of Versailles,” he said. Ghosn said he would reimburse the cost of the chic affair.
“Catherine Pegard, who is at the head of Versailles, said to me: ‘Mr. Ghosn you are a great benefactor, you know from time to time for our great friends we can make rooms available. If you are having a private party, we can make rooms available,” Ghosn said at the press conference. “I say thank you very much.”