Opel Watch: High States Poker
Playing poker for money is illegal in Germany. Which doesn’t keep the German government from conducting a high stakes poker game with a group of high rolling players. Around the table: Fiat, Magna, Ripplewood, Chancellor Merkel, Vice Chancellor Steinmeier, Minister Guttenberg. Kibitzing and making comments: The premiers of the Opel states, the unions, the Opel dealers, and just about everybody else. On the table, barely alive: Opel. The Financial Times calls it—with British understatement—“considerable back-room powerplay by politicians.”
As RF adroitly reported, German economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg raised the specter of an “orderly insolvency” over the weekend. Of course orderly, this being Germany. On Sunday, Guttenberg and Merkel met with Magna, Der Spiegel reports. On the agenda: Would Magna please ante up? A day before, Fiat’s Marchionne had said “your bid and my billion.” Of course Fiat still doesn’t play with real money (which they don’t have), but they said a paltry €6 billion in state guarantees should now be enough. Before, they wanted €7 billion. That emboldened Guttenberg to squeeze Magna (and the Russians in the background): If Magna wouldn’t sweeten the bid a bit, then there may also be the possibility of insolvency—an orderly one, of course.
Magna signaled: “We can talk.” Fiat also said: “Parliamo.” Marchionne announced he’ll come to Berlin on Tuesday and have a little talk with the blue-blooded poker-playing Minister.
In the meantime, Vice Chancellor Steinmeier, a declared Magna fan, had a long telephone talk with Fritz Henderson on Saturday night. Henderson’s arm still is sore from all the twisting.
On Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest, Berlin will pronounce their preferred bidder, the Financial Times says. “Any decision beyond Thursday could irrevocably pull Opel and Vauxhall into any bankruptcy proceedings in the US.”
Today, the German government officially confirmed that a decision is imminent.
“It is the government’s goal to clarify the Opel question by the middle of this week,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a news conference [via Reuters]. He also confirmed the weekend poker play:
“There is further movement in their positions.”
Confirming the Russian angle and who’s REALLY behind Magna, Wilhelm added that Merkel had spoken on the telephone at the weekend with Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about Opel.
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- Ed That has to be a joke.
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is actually just a short version of his name. His full name is: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester von und zu Guttenberg "von" and "zu" are both titels of nobility. All in all there are: von; zu; von und zu; vom; zum; vom und zum; von der All of them basically mean "from". In 1919, nobility lost all privileges, so their titles were made permanent part of their name. The difference between "von/vom" and "zu/zum" stems from the fact that over the ages, families might change location. Noble families that use "von und zu" were still in posession of the location from which they derrived their name (usually a medieval castle) in 1919. So if you "only" have a "von", you had either lost your original territory by 1919, or you're "new nobility" meaning that your family never had any territory to begin with. If you only have a "zu" then this usually indicates that your family still owned their territory in 1919, but had lost reign over it after the Napoleonic wars.
Thank you, Tom. That reminds me of a girlfriend I had when I was young and reckless (as opposed to just reckless now.) She had a husband, but he didn't mind. When I called her "country home," someone always answered:"Fürstlich Fürstenbergsche Forstverwaltung." I asked: "Fürstin home?" He harrumphed and got her.