GM’s CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre confirmed today that Dutch boutique sportscar firm Spyker is the only bidder for what’s left of Saab after the BAIC deal. Saab insiders insist that the firm can continue without the old tooling and technology sold to BAIC, and they still have their hopes pinned on the new 9-5 model. But, as the WSJ reports, Spyker earned a mere €7.9m in 2008 revenue, and has already endured an €8.7m net loss in the first half of this year. Spyker’s in no position to be saving struggling Swedish automakers. But behind Spyker is Convers Group, a Russian banking group with deep pockets… and a uniquely Russian reputation.
The NY Times reports that Spyker is
controlled by Alexander Antonov, a Russian tycoon who was shot seven times and reportedly lost a finger in a failed assassination attempt in Moscow in March. His son Vladimir Antonov, a 34-year-old banker who is a top executive at Convers, is chairman of Spyker.
At the time, news reports suggested the attack was related to Antonov’s “professional activities.” Fueling the mystery behind the hit, unnamed suspects who were arrested not long after the attack were then also tied to the assassination of Ruslan Yamadayev, an enemy of the Russian-backed president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Though, as analyst Andrei Soldatov tells The St Petersburg Times, any links between Antonov’s assassination and Yamayedev’s could be fabricated to “make the impression that there is a different group, one that is not associated with the Kadyrov clan, that sought to kill the Yamadayevs.” Chechen blood feuds can be so damned complicated.
One thing is clear: Antonov didn’t get riddled with 18 bullets as a sign of admiration for his deep commitment to intellectual property law. And GM has indicated that IP concerns were a major reason for the death of the Opel deal to Magna, which had backing from another Russian bank. Saab sold its old IP and tooling to BAIC in order to keep the company as intact as possible in hopes of a last ditch deal with Spyker. To make even a minuscule amount of sense, that deal would have to include the new 9-5, which represents the only real value in Saab (nobody needs a Swedish factory). Saab says it can last for 3 months on the BAIC cash, but Ed Whitacre has made it clear that if a deal isn’t done by the end of this month, Saab will be liquidated. Given the wild reputation of the financier behind the purchase, that scenario looks more likely than ever.