Carlos Ghosn's Guitar-Case Escape From Japan Was a Comedy of Errors

An excerpt from a new book on Ghosn's tumultuous career sheds new light on the haphazard debacle of his self-smuggled escape.

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Photo: Hussein Malla (AP)

The bonkers story of Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan has been an unending series of delights: The man who once brought Renault and Nissan together, the guy who seemed to stand at the very top of the auto industry, reduced to sneaking out of Japan hidden inside an instrument case. Now, an excerpt from a just-published book about Ghosn’s life and career sheds new light on the details of his ridiculous escape. Long story short, it was a debacle — and it’s a wonder Ghosn even made it.

Wall Street Journal reporters Nick Kostov and Sean McLain have just released Boundless: The Rise, Fall, and Escape of Carlos Ghosn, published by Harper Business. WSJ published an excerpt from the book today, covering the preparations ahead of the executive’s bonkers escape from house arrest in Tokyo. What a mess.


First, the cover story around the escape mission was paper-thin. Ghosn hired Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, to plan the escape. Taylor brought along his son, Peter, and an acquaintance, George Zayek, to carry out the mission.


As the book tells it, the elder Taylor and Zayek portrayed themselves to be professional violinists on a whirlwind two-day visit to Japan for a performance. The two operatives couldn’t have picked a less convincing cover story:

The men who had come to sneak Mr. Ghosn out of the country made about the least likely pair of violinists imaginable. Mr. Taylor looked like the former Green Beret that he was. Fitter than men half his age, with closely clipped salt-and-pepper hair and a square jaw, he was straight out of central casting.

Mr. Zayek painted an even more striking image. He openly bore the scars of his former life as a Lebanese militiaman. He was partially deaf in his left ear and partially blind in one eye and walked with a pronounced limp, the result of a leg injury decades ago.


Even worse than that, the two men claimed to be violinists, but their collection of luggage — which we now know was meant to smuggle Ghosn, stowaway-style — included a guitar case. That made no sense with their backstory, as noted by an employee at the private airport where Taylor and Zayek unloaded.

Why were violinists carrying a guitar? Mr. Matsui and Ms. Tokunaga had been told the passengers were attending a concert by celebrated violinist Taro Hakase as guests, rather than as performers.


The plan nearly went off the rails even before it began, when the duo forgot one of their bags on the plane.

Mr. Zayek returned to the lobby [of their hotel in Tokyo] and waited for Mr. Taylor. While he sat there, an anxious employee from the [airport] terminal showed up with a suitcase they had forgotten on the plane—a slip-up that hadn’t been part of the plan. The worker bowed and apologized for the mistake. The employee noticed that Mr. Zayek turned his head as the employee was speaking. Mr. Zayek the “concert violinist” explained that he had difficulty hearing out of his right ear, then told him not to worry about the delayed suitcase.


The story only gets more ridiculous from there. Check out the full excerpt over on WSJ, and if you like what you see, you can purchase the book here.