Spyker/Swedish Automobile (2010–2011)
2010 – purchase of Saab
On 26 January, General Motors (GM) confirmed that Spyker N.V. and GM had come to an agreement allowing Spyker to purchase Saab, subject to regulatory and government approval; the sale was completed on February 23, 2010. General Motors would continue to supply Saab with engines and transmissions, and also completed vehicles in the shape of the new Saab 9-4x from GM’s Mexican factory. The deal included a loan from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish government. It comprised US$74m in cash up front, payable to GM by July 2010, and shares in Spyker to the tune of US$320m.
2011 – bankruptcy
On February 25, Spyker Cars N.V. announced that it had agreed to sell the sports car arm to focus on Saab. Spyker intended to change its name, in May, to include the Saab name.
In early 2011, Saab began to run out of money, and Spyker were not able to cover the losses. Both companies stopped paying bills, and on March 30 several suppliers refused further deliveries to Saab’s factory in Trollhättan. Initially Spyker CEO Victor Muller blamed the media for the problems, and claimed that Saab had no problems with funding. On April 5 all production was halted at Saab’s plant in Trollhättan.
Spyker CEO Victor Muller tried to obtain funding from several different sources. On March 30 his former sponsor, Russian banker Vladimir Antonov applied to Swedish authorities, EIB and General Motors for permission to become a shareholder in Saab. His request was denied by the EIB, citing concerns about his business practices.
On May 3, a joint venture between Saab and Chinese carmaker Hawtai was announced. This deal quickly unraveled and on May 12 Hawtai walked away from Saab.
Plans for a new joint venture with Chinese carmaker Youngman and Chinese automotive retailer Pang Da followed shortly. After months of negotiations the companies agreed to a joint US$140 million takeover of Saab Automobile and its UK dealer network unit from Swedish Automobile, with Youngman and Pang Da taking 60 and 40 percent stakes respectively.
On 6 December, GM announced that it would not continue its licenses to GM patents and technology to Saab if the company was sold to Pang Da and Zhejiang Youngman, stating that the new owner’s use of the technology is not in the best interest of GM investors. Because of this, Saab started working on a new proposal which would not change the original ownership structure and would not include a Chinese partner as an owner of the company, but instead as a 50% owner of a new daughter company.
On 19 December 2011, with no alternatives left after GM continued to block any form of involvement with a Chinese partner, Saab officially filed for bankruptcy after a three-year fight for survival. Under Sweden’s bankruptcy laws, a party that files for bankruptcy can be bought out of bankruptcy.
On 16 April 2012, a meeting on Saab’s bankruptcy was held at the District Court of Vänersborg. The official receivers in charge of the Saab liquidation valued the assets at us$500m and the debt at US$2,000m. After subtracting the value of the assets, Saab leaves a debt of US$1,500m.
2012 – US$3 billion damages claim
On 6 August 2012, Spyker, represented by the law firm Patton Boggs, filed a lawsuit against General Motors in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan claiming US$3 billion in damages for the actions GM took in the fall of 2011 to stop the various proposed deals between Spyker and Youngman concerning Saab Automobile where Youngman claimed to be ready to invest several billion dollars in Saab Automobile to guarantee its future. More precisely, under the Automotive Technology License Agreement (ATLA) between GM Global Technology Operations Inc (GTO) and Saab, GM refused licensing of the platforms and technology in Saab cars if any Chinese party were to be involved in Saab’s ownership structure.
To solve this issue, Spyker and Youngman came up with a deal where Youngman would provide Saab with a loan of €200 million which would be converted into an equity interest in Saab only after Saab ceased using GM technology in its vehicles. Despite this, GM maintained that it would still refuse licensing of platforms and technology needed for production of Saab cars in Trollhättan and also threatened to cease 9-4X production at GM’s plant in Mexico, should the deal go through.
Consequently, the deal finally collapsed and Saab was forced to file for bankruptcy. According to Spyker, the actions taken by GM were not legal. Since Saab had been in receivership since the bankruptcy, and would be until the deal with Nevs was closed, Spyker and the receivers of Saab Automobile had entered into an agreement where Spyker would bear the costs of the litigation in exchange for 90% of the claim if the case is successful.
2013 – claim dismissed
In June 2013, the district court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that General Motors was within its rights to block the sale. In October 2014, the district court of appeals upheld the dismissal.