Ghosn’s ‘Inside Man,’ Jailed in Japan, Quietly Wielded Power during Nissan

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But during Mr. Kelly’s 30 years with a Japanese automobile maker, contend former executives who worked with him, he became obvious inside a company—most significantly in a final decade as gatekeeper and playmate to Mr. Ghosn, who ran Nissan for some-more than 15 years as arch executive officer.

Japanese prosecutors think that Mr. Kelly helped Mr. Ghosn understate his remuneration on Nissan bonds reports for a 5 years by Mar 2015. The dual men, who haven’t been rigourously charged with any crime, are now in control during a Tokyo jail and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Kelly, a U.S. citizen, was one of a few Americans to reason comparison care roles during a association led mostly by European and Japanese executives. He was also a initial and usually American to turn a senior-ranking executive on Nissan’s residence when he assimilated it in 2012, putting him alongside Mr. Ghosn and Hiroto Saikawa, who took over Nissan as CEO final year.

During a press discussion Monday, Mr. Saikawa described Mr. Kelly as a Ghosn confidant and pronounced an inner review during Nissan showed him to be a designer behind a purported financial misconduct. Mr. Saikawa didn’t elaborate on a commentary of a investigation, that Nissan brought to prosecutors.

At a time of their arrest, Messrs. Ghosn and Kelly were in Japan for a residence meeting, though they didn’t arrive together, according to people briefed on their plans.

Mr. Kelly was noticed within Nissan as wielding substantial change during a automobile maker, where he during one indicate served as Mr. Ghosn’s many comparison help and tranquil his daily schedule; former executives described him as a arrange of arch of staff.

The 62-year-old association maestro was famous for being fiercely constant to Mr. Ghosn, who mostly incited to him to troubleshoot problems and understanding with crew matters, these people said.

“He was Carlos Ghosn’s shield. His inside man,” pronounced a former subordinate of Mr. Kelly.

But Mr. Kelly done few open appearances and worked mostly behind a scenes, even after he was put in assign of Nissan’s corporate communications during his years in Japan, a former colleagues said.

Several described him as ghostlike. “He was really discreet, a bit of a ghost,” pronounced one executive who worked with him.

Carlos Ghosn, shown in 2017, mostly incited to Greg Kelly to troubleshoot problems and understanding with crew matters, former Nissan executives said.

Mr. Kelly once headed tellurian tellurian resources, a absolute position during a association where lifelong practice is standard in Japan and managers are mostly changed around a world. His other roles as conduct of corporate communications and a authorised dialect during Nissan gave him some control over a information upsurge within a company.

Nissan pronounced it couldn’t criticism on a specifics of a monthslong investigation. “Obviously, as a association we are not holding them lightly,” pronounced a association spokesman, who concluded with a outline of Mr. Kelly as gatekeeper tighten to Mr. Ghosn.

Jim Press, a longtime automobile attention executive who has served as an confidant for Nissan’s fondness with

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pronounced he was taken aback by a allegations involving Mr. Kelly.

“Greg is one of a many capable, reliable executives I’ve ever met,” Mr. Press said.

After removing his law grade in 1981, Mr. Kelly worked for a few years as an profession before fasten a authorised dialect during Nissan’s U.S. auxiliary in 1988.

He sensitively rose by a ranks; when he helped harmonise a relocation of a company’s U.S. domicile from California to Nashville in 2006, many executives left a association since they didn’t wish to uproot, a former executives said. As conduct of tellurian resources in North America, Mr. Kelly hired many of their replacements.

In 2008, he changed to Japan to run a authorised dialect for Nissan and became a conduct of a CEO’s bureau after that year, a pursuit for that he ran residence meetings. In 2009, he combined a roles of tellurian tellurian resources arch and communications executive for Nissan. He assimilated a residence in 2012.

He would spasmodic join tighten colleagues for a splash after work during his time in Japan, former colleagues said. He singular interactions with many staff in a bureau to troubleshooting problems, they said.

Mr. Kelly was a really professional, “stand-up guy,” and could be intensely cordial, though could be tough when things went sideways, pronounced one of a former executives who worked with him.

Mr. Kelly was really tighten to Mr. Ghosn and worked with him around a clock, even while gripping a low profile, a former executive said.

As tellurian resources chief, he helped his trainer confirm on promotions—a purpose Mr. Kelly’s former subordinate pronounced done employees nervous about channel him. He was famous to sideline people who he didn’t see as group players, pronounced former executives.

He neat many comparison executives, a former executives said, before stepping divided from his day-to-day operational roles in 2015.

In new years, he spent most of his time during his residence on Sanibel Island in Florida, where he was an zealous fisherman and owned a twin carcass boat, according to open annals and an executive who worked with him.

But he remained a member of a Nissan residence of directors and a visit participation during a company’s U.S. domicile outward Nashville, according to another former executive.

Write to Chester Dawson during chester.dawson@wsj.com and Sean McLain during sean.mclain@wsj.com

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