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Carlos Ghosn

PATRICK SINKEL/The Globe and Mail

Faced with one of the worst crises in the car industry, and forced to jettison an ambitious growth program for Renault while suffering a loss at Nissan, Carlos Ghosn did what he likes best and pulled off a deal.

Some industry observers had expected Mr. Ghosn to step aside and leave his lieutenants to run the two companies he had welded together into a powerful alliance that was breathing down the necks of Toyota Motors Corp. , Volkswagen and Ford Motor Co. in the global market.

He may still do so, but only after having brought Daimler into the alliance of Renault and Nissan Motor on Wednesday, embracing up-market Mercedes and working together on small vehicles, engines and electric vehicles.

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The house of Renault has looked shaky lately, as the Russian government was demanding a cash injection into Lada maker AvtoVAZ, in which it has a 25-per-cent stake, while a pact with Mahindra & Mahindra in India faltered and its entry into China remained pending.

The French government leaned heavily on the company when the former state-owned firm planned to move much of the production of a new Clio small car to Turkey, and the stock market values the group at less than the combined value of its stakes in Nissan and Swedish truck maker Volvo.

Mr. Ghosn's aura seemed to be waning, while Sergio Marchionne of Fiat stole some limelight with a deal with Chrysler.

But the Brazilian-born businessman managed to convince an initially reluctant Dieter Zetsche of Daimler, which had just been through a costly divorce with Chrysler, to ink a deal.

Mr. Ghosn is a driven man who easily commands an audience despite his relatively small stature. He thinks and speaks in concepts, and projects himself and the firm several years into the future, instead of being distracted by current problems.

He championed a cheap car for the masses in emerging markets and embraced the electric vehicle before many others.

He also never made a secret that he believed there were too many car makers in the world and consolidation would continue.

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Mr. Ghosn was born in Porto Velho, Brazil on March 9, 1954 to Lebanese parents. At the age of nine he went to Beirut with his mother and studied at a French-language school run by Jesuit priests. This prepared him for a high school in Paris and top technical schools the École Polytechnique and École des Mines.

He met his current second-in-command at Renault, Patrick Pelata, at these schools.

He first joined Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, where, as every new joiner does, he spent several weeks as a production-line worker making tires.

Later he rose to plant manager, research head and the boss for Latin America back in Brazil. As head of the North American operations for Michelin, he integrated Uniroyal Goodrich.

With Edouard Michelin destined to become the head of the company - he later died in a fishing accident in 2006 - Mr. hosn joined the Renault executive board in 1996.

Then chief executive Louis Schweitzer had concluded an alliance with ailing Japanese car maker Nissan and sent Mr. Ghosn to Tokyo to turn around the company.

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Mr. Ghosn seconded faithful assistants such as Mr. Pelata and finance director Thierry Moulonguet and closed plants, at the cost of thousands of jobs.

In Japan, he obtained a status of "business superstar" with blanket media coverage, and even a manga comic book on his life.

Mr. Ghosn and his wife Rita have four children, and she owns a Lebanese restaurant in Tokyo. As the executive head of two companies thousands of miles apart, Mr. Ghosn divides his life between Paris, Tokyo and the United States, where some of his children study.

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