Nissan said it was ousting chairman Carlos Ghosn for alleged financial misconduct and Japanese media reported he been arrested, a shocking fate for a leader hailed for rescuing the company from close to bankruptcy.
The Japanese carmaker said Mr Ghosn's alleged misconduct included personal use of company money and under-reporting how much he had been paid.
Mr Ghosn is also chairman and chief executive of Nissan's French partner Renault and one of the best-known figures in the global car industry, and his departure raises questions over the alliance's future.
Nissan said it launched a months-long investigation after a whistleblower tipped it off to wrongdoing by Mr Ghosn and representative director Greg Kelly.
"The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn's compensation," Nissan said in a statement. It said CEO Hiroto Saikawa would propose the board remove Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly.
Renault shares tumbled 11pc. French President Emmanuel Macron said the government, the firm's top shareholder, will be vigilant about Renault and its alliance with Nissan.
Brazilian-born, of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, Mr Ghosn began his career at Michelin in France, moving to Renault. He joined Nissan in 1999 after Renault bought a controlling stake and became CEO in 2001. He was in that post till last year.
In June, Renault shareholders approved Mr Ghosn's €7.4m pay for 2017. In addition, he received €9.2m in his final year as Nissan chief executive.