Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone leapt into the race on Friday for GM’s loss-making unit Saab, joining several groups making last-ditch bids as the US giant prepared to wind down the iconic carmaker.
Ecclestone’s involvement was revealed by Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital in a statement issued just as the deadline for final bids expired.
The firm announced its “interest in making an offer for the acquisition of a majority stake in Saab in a partnership with Mr Bernard Ecclestone”, adding that it had been “brought into the bidding process at a late stage by advisors close to the deal.”
It also said it would “aggressively work towards a successful closing of the transaction with all the relevant stakeholders of the company.”
GM Europe’s spokesman Stefan Weinmann confirmed his company had “received several proposals” for Saab, adding the US auto giant was still going ahead with the planned closure of the Swedish brand while considering any new bids.
“Essentially, the two processes will continue in parallel, which means we’ll continue with a wind down and at the same time we will look at the proposals and analyse them and see whether we can find a good solution for everybody,” Weinmann told AFP Friday.
He confirmed Dutch sportscar maker Spyker was among the groups that had submitted a new bid but would not name any other contenders.
The Dutch sportscar maker, in talks with GM “since the beginning of December or even since November” according to Weinmann, made an updated bid for Saab shortly before the deadline for final bids expired at 11pm CET on Thursday.
“Spyker Cars today has made a revised offer to General Motors for the acquisition of Saab Automobile A.B.,” Spyker’s chief executive Victor Muller said in a statement.
Speaking to AFP on Thursday, Muller said: “It is the same offer we made during the weekend of December 20 (last year), but it is being completely refined following discussions” in recent weeks.
Weinmann left the door open for additional bids to come in, saying “if (the bids) we have received don’t lead anywhere, and then down the road somebody else comes down with another proposal, we would be open to that as well.”
“It is also clear the longer it takes the more difficult it gets,” Weinmann added.
Swedish business daily Dagens Industri on Friday reported a Swedish group was also interested in acquiring Saab.
The iconic Swedish brand, put up for sale over a year ago by its 20-year owner GM, has been on the verge of extinction since GM said on December 18 it would wind down Saab, citing failed talks with Spyker.
But the Dutch sportscar maker then made a renewed offer for the brand, sending the future of Saab’s 3,400 employees into limbo.
According to Swedish media, Saab’s board met for several hours on Friday in the company’s hometown of Trollhättan. Unions were slated to speak about the meeting later in the day.
Saab is one of four storied brands being shed by GM as part of a massive restructuring effort that began in 2005 and accelerated last year when the largest US automaker went bankrupt.
Analysts have warned that some 8,000 jobs could be lost with Saab’s closure.