Ex-Mitsubishi Chairman Masuko dies 3 weeks after stepping down

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TOKYO — Mitsubishi Motors’ former Chairman, Osamu Masuko, died from “cardiac insufficiency” on Aug. 27, the Japanese automaker said in a statement on Monday. He was 71.

Masuko, a veteran of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, had just weeks after he resigned as chairman, citing health reasons for his decision to step down.

Masuko joined Mitsubishi Motors in 2004 and became president in 2007. He oversaw the creation of the partnership between Mitsubishi and Nissan.

Mitsubishi Motors said he died on Aug. 27.

“He built solid relationships with the management of partners, the Alliance companies and the Mitsubishi Group through good communications by leveraging his personality and extensive connections,” the company said.

The former chairman’s death comes as the alliance between Mitsubishi, Nissan and French automaker Renault SA struggles to regain profitability in the aftermath of the ouster of former alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Masuko was at the helm of Mitsubishi during a 2016 scandal in which the automaker was found to have overstated the mileage on its vehicles. An investigation uncovered slack governance and pressure on resource-starved engineers as chronic issues at the company.

The scandal — Mitsubishi’s third in two decades — pummeled profits and further tarnished the automaker’ s brand. At the height of the furor, Nissan lent its smaller rival a lifeline, offering it $2.2 billion for a 34 percent controlling stake.

The deal was agreed between Masuko and then Nissan CEO Ghosn, and brought Mitsubishi in as a junior partner in the Nissan-Renault automotive alliance.

Masuko later denounced his ties with Ghosn following the latter’s 2018 arrest in Japan over suspected financial misconduct.

All three members of the alliance currently are mired in financial problems, after years of aggressive expansion policies under Ghosn’s leadership.

A further drop in global car demand due to the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these problems, and Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault are each bracing for steep annual operating losses this year.

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Saurabh Shukla

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