Opel: Germany Definitely Wants Its Money Back

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

What happened two days after GM blindsided most of Europe, including Russia, with their decision not to sell Opel after all? As announced the next day, Opel workers in Germany laid down their tools today. Tomorrow, workers in Opel plants in the rest of Europe will follow.

Yesterday night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel picked up the phone, called her colleague Barak Obama and voiced her displeasure. “Obama said he had not been involved in the surprise decision by the GM board,” Reuters reports. Isn’t Teflon wonderful? Angela told Barak that his state-owned company better pay back the balance of the bridge loan by the end of the month. She even dispatched her very own collection agent to DC.

Today, Germany’s newly minted foreign minister Guido Westerwelle went to Washington to visit his colleague Hillary Clinton. According to Deutsche Welle, Westerwelle made clear that the loan “must be paid back.” He said that Clinton had shown “understanding for our position.”

In related news, Fritz Henderson told reporters today that GM is busy raiding all available couches, and that he is confident that GM can find the €3b needed to keep Opel alive.

“We will be very shortly presenting our plan,” Henderson said. “We feel confident that the plan will be financeable.” Looks like GM’s Carl-Peter Forster was right when he said yesterday that GM’s board doesn’t have a plan.

GM “is certainly planning to ask European governments for state aid, to help restructure Opel and Vauxhall, “ says the BBC. “But after the collapse of the Magna deal, Germany is in no mood to pay.” Good luck with the couch.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Pgcooldad Pgcooldad on Nov 07, 2009

    I hope this clears it up. Technically, he offered to step aside, and they acted on it. "In a mid-March meeting with Rick, I explored his feelings about his team and then tried to work the conversation around to himself. "I'm not planning to stay until I'm 65 but I think I've got at least a few years left in me," said Wagoner, 56. "But I told the last administration that if my leaving would be helpful to saving General Motors, I'm prepared to do it." He added that neither he nor his board thought that was a good idea." "With that, the meeting dispersed. The recommendation to ask GM's Rick Wagoner to step aside had received barely a mention." "I don't know whether Rick had any inkling of why I had wanted to see him alone. His face was impassive as I said, "In our last meeting, you very graciously offered to step aside if it would be helpful, and unfortunately, our conclusion is that it would be best if you did that." http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/21/autos/auto_bailout_rattner.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2009102109

  • Daanii2 Daanii2 on Nov 07, 2009

    I've probably belabored the point too much. But I'm a lawyer, after all. And in court, you would not get far relying on the technicality that he offered to step aside, and you took him up on it. There's little question that, legally, Rattner fired Wagoner. Look, for example, at the title of the video that goes with the Fortune article you quote from: "Why I Fired GM's CEO." I have read carefully Rattner's Fortune article. I was astounded by his hubris. One sentence struck me as particularly important. "He added that neither he nor his board thought that was a good idea." GM's board did not think firing Wagoner was a good idea. Rattner did it anyway. Sure, maybe Steve Rattner is a brilliant man who in the space of a few months made tough decisions that saved GM. And then, unfortunately, had to resign to fight charges of influence peddling and kickbacks. And maybe Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Barack Obama have more clues about how to run a public company than GM's clueless board. They have so much experience in that area. And they had plenty of free time to spend on GM's travails. They weren't too busy in their real jobs, I'm sure. And that doesn't even take into account the brilliant Brian Deese. After Enron, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which we all have to follow. It imposes a big burden on corporate officers and directors. But that burden is supposed to be justified, so that corporations are governed by law. I guess that all goes away when you are Steve Rattner. Then you can do anything you want.

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Nov 07, 2009

    [...] post is from here. Visit the link to read more.Nobody in Germany or Europe honestly believes that nobody in the [...]

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Nov 07, 2009
    let me put this back at you. Sorry, I won't let you put this back to me. I asked you to cite a statute (although you may cite case law if you prefer) that proves your contention that laws were violated. You obviously can't do that. You're obfuscating because you don't have a sound rebuttal that supports your contention. Unless you do, I don't really care about your alleged illustrious track record. A judge wouldn't care -- he'd want a legal argument, and so do I. It's fairly basic: if a party wants control over the board or senior management in exchange for investing equity, then that party has a right to demand it. The government was under no obligation to commit funds to GM. If GM didn't like the terms, it could go get the money from someone else. Quid pro quo. If you work in Silicon Valley, then surely you must know that VC's routinely replace founders when committing equity. It's the golden rule -- he who has the gold gets to make the rules.