Exclusive: Renault's Mueller quits, clearing CEO succession path - sources

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault's RENA.PA Chief Performance Officer Stefan Mueller is leaving the company, sources told Reuters on Friday - likely clearing the way for rival candidate Thierry Bollore to be named second-in-command and eventual successor to CEO Carlos Ghosn.

FILE PHOTO: Raindrops cover the logo of French car manufacturer Renault on a automobile seen in Paris, France, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

Bollore, currently chief competitive officer, had been vying with Mueller for promotion in the succession process underway at Renault. The former BMW BMWG.DE executive's departure was agreed this week, according to one of the company sources.

“As of today Stefan Mueller has not left the company,” Renault spokesman Frederic Texier said. He declined to comment when asked whether Mueller’s departure had been decided.

German-born Mueller and Bollore, a French former Michelin executive, both joined Renault in 2012.

Ghosn, 63, had earlier been expected to hand over the reins to a new chief executive and move to a another role at the helm of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

But sources said the plan foundered on differences with the French state, Renault's biggest shareholder, over the alliance's future shape and direction. Renault currently holds 43.4 percent of Nissan 7201.T, which in turn controls Mitsubishi Motors 7211.T via a 34 percent stake.

Renault now plans to propose Ghosn’s reappointment to the next annual shareholder meeting in June, sources also said, confirming a Feb. 1 report in Le Figaro.

The government has yet to agree with Renault on a “road map” for the alliance or bless Bollore’s promotion to the new position of chief operating officer and heir apparent.

Both sides are seeking to avoid a repeat of a bitter 2015 clash in which France raised its Renault stake to swing a shareholder vote and secure double voting rights. The government also pushed unsuccessfully for a full Renault-Nissan merger on terms that would safeguard French industrial interests.

The appointment of Ghosn’s second-in-command is expected to be approved at a Feb. 15 board meeting ahead of Renault’s full-year results presentation the following day.

Reporting by Laurence FrostAdditional reporting by Gilles Guillaume, editing by David Evans