Saab Deal Backed By Russian Cash After All [UPDATED]
In the confusion of the recent Saab-Spyker deal, an interesting tidbit has flown beneath the radar until recently. Most industry news outlets [ ourselves included] had reported that Spyker’s backing from Russia’s Conversbank had given GM intellectual property nightmares, and that the deal had gone through with backing from other corners. Not so, it turns out. Bloomberg [via BusinessWeek] reports that Alexander Antonov confirms his bank supplied the first $25m in payments to GM. A strange turn of events, considering Russian backing for Magna’s failed Opel bid (and GM’s attendant IP paranoia) was said to have scuttled the deal (and that didn’t even have Convers’s bizarre Chechen blood feud connection).
How did they make it work? Antonov reportedly can not become a shareholder in Saab-Spyker until 2016, when GM’s remaining shares in the company are scheduled to be redeemed. According to The Local, this arrangement is courtesy of an FBI “demand” “whereby [Antonov] can not return to Spyker without the prior consent of the US car firm.” Antonov the younger has sought to clear his name in an NY Times op-ed, and Izvestia [via RIA Novosti] is even calling out GM for anti-Russian bias (even though it seems to have been shared by the FBI and Swedish Authorities). Meanwhile, Spyker only needs $50m more by July to complete the deal, and that’s a steal for access to GM’s latest midsized platform.
UPDATE: Antonov fires back in Automotive News [sub], saying:
In response to all this noise in the media we have retaliated by hiring a large and globally renowned investigation agency which has former FBI and CIA agents among its employees.
They are doing a report which will be ready in two to three weeks. The agency is investigating whether the business of (myself) and family has any criminal links and will issue assessments backed by documents in response to all accusations against us.
Antonov says he will loan as much as $100m to Spyker CEO Victor Muller’s hedge fund Tenaci, and that he hopes the investigation will allow him to become a part owner of Saab-Spyker prior to the 2016 GM pullout. But, he says, “it would all depend on GM. We can quietly come back to the issue when the investigation agency submits the report and if GM removes its concerns.”
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