Victor – my personal view on a tall dutchman

It was back in 2009, in the middle of the storm. Koenigsegg had just quit negotiations with Saab and we were waiting for Swade to inform us how things would go on as a new name appeared: Spyker. I had no idea who those guys should be besides some dark rememberance of a Formula 1 team that had been not too successful. We found out a bit more and came across the leading guy: Victor Muller. We all pretty much remember how this went on. He and his team kept fighting windmills (in any way you can read this) until they had taken over Saab from GM. It was a very emotional story and as a result many here got a quite emotional view at the guy who saved Saab.

It’s a well known fact that emotional views have a backside. They can turn around quite harsh if something goes wrong. And it looks like this applies here, too. Many people among the community have become extremely critical to say the least. There are people who’d like to see him go away, who put all the blame on him for everything that went wrong, who even said that he was a criminal before any proof was shown. Needless to say that the proof has never been there. Thankfully those extreme reactions are a minority here at SU.

Not that I want to saint him, he has surely made his mistakes. But I really want to lift it from that emotional stage to a more reflected view. He has archieved quite a lot for the company and I’d like people to be fair when judging him. Actually I’ve been carrying around the idea for this post for quite a while and it’s a fitting coincidence that it is going online on Victors birthday. So here we go…

There is absolutely no use in the question if Victor was the right candidate to buy Saab. In a nutshell, at the time of need there was noone else who was accepted by GM and willing to play their game. Some say that Victor maybe accepted too much of GMs demands but did he really have a choice? GM showed quite frankly that they were just willing to wind down the company if nessesary. He still came back even though he lost his investor and quite a bit of investment. He may have given up a bit of safety buffer, we don’t know too much about the details. It doesn’t really matter now, he was at least willing to take the risk and finalize the sale. If he hadn’t been there, Saab would most likely be gone by now.

The Swedish press have not been very favourable when it comes to Victor. Or Saab in general. I still do not get this. Some suspected a conspiracy but I came to the conclusion that this has been mostly caused by a lack of research. Lots of the reports about the chances for the Chinese deal were mainly based on one so called expert for the Chinese automotive sector. Not too solid if you ask me. Victor said that Saab would have access to the money to pay the wages and he was accused of hiding money from the enforcement agency. What became to that? Nothing. The list could go on. To be fair I have to mention there were of course people like Robert Collin who chose to take a more professional, reflected position.

The bad thing about these headlines is that they burn into the common remembrance even though they may be proven wrong. So the damage is done anyway and I really wonder if the press is aware of what they are doing. Now as NDRC progress became known and due to the appeal lots of infos were disclosed people could really see how much potential there is in Saab. Getting to read the archievements Saab has made until today may have been quite interesting for some journalists with sources from the inside. Victor was right being optimistic about Saabs future and the timeline concerning the Pang Da/Youngman deal. Maybe a touch too enthusiastic at some point but it’s the outcome that counts.

When JÅJ retired Victor stepped in as an interim CEO. This has been criticised a lot in publich and all the time someone shows up demanding Saab to get a new CEO. I agree. And Victor does, too. But considering what Saab went through since April it is no big surprise that they just could not attract the right person to step up. Saab needs an experienced CEO to run the day to day business at the company. And I am pretty sure that we’ll see an appointment as soon as the current situation calms down a bit.

I’ve recently read that it was said that Victor is always after the money and he mostly works with other people’s funds. Err, he is a businessman, right? So it is in my opinion part of his job to be after money and if it is needed to secure the respective funds to finance the company he leads. When times got tougher some commenters accused Victor of redirecting the Chinese funds in his own pockets. Do you really think that Victor is that dumb? I don’t. If he had come for the quick buck he would already been gone because he had realized that it can’t be made with Saab. On the contrary, he has been hunting for investors around the globe. China, Brazil, USA, then back to Sweden in the centre of the crossfire and again the other way around. Some hours at home with his family must have been pretty rare. Tough for the father of a newborn baby. But despite all that he has been tireless and pretty successful as I’d say. That is nothing you do easily, it’s about hours and hours of negotiations under extreme pressure because he just had to be successful. There must be quite an amount of passion in this tall Dutchman.

To end with a personal note: I do not agree with every single thing Victor did. Heck, I don’t have to. But I have the highest respect for him and I’m pretty comfortable with him as a chairman. I was in better times and I am now. He is a true fighter. I believe that he will do his share to get Saab through this and that he and Saab will succeed. Thanks for your efforts Victor and happy birthday.

TurboLover
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Sumes up my view of the guy perfectly! 🙂

Audun
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+1 🙂

900 classic cab
Guest
5 years 14 days ago

Yes, thank you mr. Muller and happy birthday.

Daniel B
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+1
Happy Birthday Victor!

martinsaab
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Very good writeup, Till. 100% to the point. Thanks.
And happy birthday, Victor!

MarkoA
Member
5 years 14 days ago
A true fighter, that he really is. Happy birthday Victor! It´s annoying and on the other hand hilarious, how so many people here have turned to negative during these difficult times. It seems that some, who had to turn to other brands turned their back to Saab and started spreading negativity towards Saab and VM. It´s really easy to say bad things about Saab now when things are as they are. But I love to hear what all naysayers have in mind when the next gen 9-3 rolls off the production line. I believe VM and Saab can make it… Read more »
Audun
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+93 🙂 I look very much forward to the next 9-3 with all this new good stuff. 🙂

marcus
Member
5 years 14 days ago

a perfect image of my opinion about everything around vm and saab.
thank you very much for that.
and i also wish victor muller all the best to his birthday and probably more time with his family – they also need him.
this is the difference of saabsunited to the dumb press writers or, much worse, the well known “specialists”

ng
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+2
Very happy bithday, Victor ! You are a born fighter !!!

meg haviland
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+3 Saab up!!!

Sensonic
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Happy Birthday Victor!

ingvar
Member
5 years 14 days ago

A very good writeup,Till 72! The figthing spirit VM has is admirable. I hope that the SAAB business will come to an happy ending.Otherwise —
Ingvar

Saabim
Member
5 years 14 days ago

My respect to him. Really thanks for his effort. I wish Happy Birthday to VM

Audun
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+900 🙂

Mark
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Victor has done a good job as a stand in CEO at Saab. Who will replace him when things settle down?

Carl-Peter Forster who was one of Saab’s (few?) friends in the GM Europe hierarchy, has just resigned from Tata. Perhaps he would make a good candidate for the job at Saab?

ANA
Member
5 years 14 days ago

CPF has already been Chairman of Saab, as well as more high profile jobs. Very unlikely that he would come back.

Mark
Member
5 years 14 days ago

He was Chairman of Saab as part of his position at GM. He just stepped down from Tata due to “unavoidable personal circumstances”. Perhaps a smaller car company would make a nice change and be more convenient for him?. Although Saab will be a challenge for anyone who takes the job as CEO.

saabdog
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Makes me wonder if a certain Victor Muller has been been talking to him about a position at Saab…hmmmmmm. Does make one think.

Saabim
Member
5 years 14 days ago

A postcard to Victor Muller: Happy Birthday

LarsG
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Till72 – well written and Happy Birthday to Victor.

kochje
Member
5 years 14 days ago

A very good summary, Till72.
You just give the man the respect he deserves.

alwaysSaab
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Happy Birthday to you, Victor, and thank you for the fighting spirit to keep Saab going!

saabtec
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Happy Birthday Victor, the hardest working person I have ever seen in the automotive world. There must be a stronger word than Tenacity.

ryanonsrc
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+1

I too have found myself trying to find a stronger word …

Remdu67
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Well written, Till72. I would sign it. And wish all the best to Saab, its management and to every workers there and elsewhere.

michaelb
Member
5 years 14 days ago

A birthday and a critical situation like the one for Saab are not the right point in time to make an overall assessment. It would not just be negative btw. There are some positive points. Long management experience tells me that most of the bloggers here are naive and do not have the slightest clue, how succesful crisis management works. A six months liquidity crisis is not a sign of skilled leadership.

SteveW
Member
5 years 14 days ago

but if he suceeds when most commentators have written off Saab who can question his business acumen? He is also eloquent, tenacious, caring and honourable ( keeping all the staff on the books when most companies would have laid them off and also not looking to write off debts to suppliers). If he pulls this off he should win every business award out there.

martinsaab
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+1

ivo 71
Member
5 years 14 days ago
michaelb: your managerial experience, that may just be the point where you err, Michael. You may have a lot of management experience but your words lead me to believe that you don’t/didn’t own the entity/entities where you gained that experience. I also have that experience but I gained it by running my own business. Not, by a long shot, in the same league as Victor Muller but I do know what feelings of passion and responsibility the ownership of a business with personnel generates. I don’t prove that passion and responsibility in your comments here. To me, you seem to… Read more »
Jake
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+1

ivo 71
Member
5 years 13 days ago

correction re. comment #29: ‘I don’t taste that passion…’

Sorry, it was a bit late…

Ivo

Saabim
Member
5 years 14 days ago

What about six months crisis. It isn’t crisis of Victor Muller. It has been manufactured many months years ago. He fights to save Saab from the beginning. What do you do better at its place? Maybe the same (to fight) and or you would you go into bankruptcy. What he is doing it would not do the man who would be interested in money and profits only. We call it: “higher principle”. It’s easy to give up but he doesn’t do it.

ivo 71
Member
5 years 13 days ago

Stoprocentne souhlasím.

🙂

Ivo

zveerz
Member
5 years 14 days ago

+ 900 🙂
Happy Birthday Victor!
I believe that You get our beloved SAAB to next level, because You are true fighter and Your name means Winner!

Troll96
Member
5 years 14 days ago

We are lucky to have Victor at the helm. I hope he gets a few hours of relaxation on his birthday before getting back to work.

Rogge
Member
5 years 14 days ago

We come and we go to be the wining company!!!!!

We fix this !! we lives for ever!!!

Happy birthday Viktor !!!

zippy
Member
5 years 14 days ago

We all look up to Victor in more ways than one. Dutch people are so tall. 😉

BLACKAERO
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Interesting musings. Well said. And it’s certainly been a roller coaster ride for all of us who love our Saab cars. Happy birthday, indeed! And let’s hope that Saab is re-born again with many more birthdays to come. No company deserves it more. We will all hang in there until it happens.

welshwizard645
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Just a comment on “tall dutchman”

His mother must have given him loads of milk when he was younger….have you ever seen a short dutchman?

They’re all tall…

but not as charismatic as our VICTOR

RikardH
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Very well written, Till!
And happy birthday to Victor!!

edusaab
Member
5 years 14 days ago
Check the economy situation, all the companies that have difficulties or any company that had any difficulty or bad moments in its history and how much of them accomplished te amount of support to the owner, CEO, Borad management, included it’s own employees?(remember JAJ when arrived from Detroit at the Factory and how was received). This is unique!!! and that’s something it only could happen to SAAB, no other company. It seem that many people wants its dead, but those must fight against a bunch of passionate people that want to continue with it job of doing and enjoying great… Read more »
mathiaso
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Happy birthday Victor!

I believe you and the entire team at SAAB will pull this off!

the hammer
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Victor – Happy Birthday from Reinertsen Motors! You can check out the cupcakes we had in your honor in the photo gallery…

guy55
Member
5 years 14 days ago

gelukkige verjaardag H Muller!!!!!!
happy birthday,ouwe rakker!!!!!! vanuit Belgie.
have today very good news from beherman belgium,my convertible griffin is delyvery in januari 2012!!!!!!!!!!!

JasonPowell
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Very well said Till, I can’t think of anyone who has worked as hard for anything in there lives. Victor is in a league of his own when it comes to his work ethic. I find it very frustrating when people question what he did in his spare time or that he even has spare time. Who are we to judge anyone and really, do any of us work remotely as hard as he does? I think not. Happy birthday to the hardest working man.

Allan B
Member
5 years 14 days ago
“For the tenacious, no road is impassable.” As apt for Saab is it is for Spyker. Maybe the whole Saab adventure is naive and foolish, but then so was sledging to the north and south poles, climbing Everest and launching men at the moon. Last time I checked, VM had not gone all Richard Branson on us and proposed to top any of these achievements, but there’s time yet and I suspect he would given half the chance. In our own small way, I think so many of us Saab nuts are excited by VM because he really represents the… Read more »
Saabim
Member
5 years 14 days ago

1* 🙂

golfhunter
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Huge respect for Mister President .

martinsaab
Member
5 years 14 days ago

This story has a bit of the small Gallian village that is the only one in the whole France to resist the Romans

😉

Saab up, Victor Asterix Muller 🙂

saabsp
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Happy Birthday Victor. Thank you for not giving up. Hopefully one day we will look back on this from behind the steering wheels of our next generation of Saab cars and celebrate. Happy Birthday

spacy
Guest
5 years 14 days ago

.
I just hope SAAB, has a next Birthday…..

ryanonsrc
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Saab will

Joe Lobo
Member
5 years 14 days ago
I have expressed my opinion on Mr Mueller many times in the past and see no need to repeat again. Have not met Mr Mueller personally yet and would love to do so one day as he is a true businessman and a true entrepreneur. I deal with many multinationals across various verticals in manufacturing and have seen how many such entities either go in to obscurity or transform themselves and excel by having an internal “champion” with a vision, the belief and ability to execute change. No need to look further than Apple in recent years and how S… Read more »
OddJob
Member
5 years 14 days ago
Engage invulnerable mode. It’s been quite a voyage being with Saab during the last years. I cleaned my room the other day and found an issue of Swedish auto motor & sport from 18th of September 2005. The headline on the front page was “The game around Saab, all the secrets from the inside”. This put me in some kind of perspective becuase I have forgot that Saabs existtance was questioned at that time.Saab has won over hardships through not only by technical but also by unconventional business solutions. When sales of the two-stroke Saabs plummeted in mid 60’s they… Read more »
MichelD
Member
5 years 14 days ago

Well written article.

Happy Birthday Victor!

Thanks for all your efforts Our wish – A bright future for SAAB.

Michel

aap
Member
5 years 13 days ago
On Victor Muller, What counts first for me is that Victor Muller is a true car fanatic, and in that way has all the best intentions for Saab I can imagine. He is the perfect man to inspire and lead the way. His choice for Jason Castriotta for intance was non-confentional but outstanding, he knows the money bussiness and never gives up. But he is a friend of Mr. Antonov, and for some unclear reason(s) this man is not accepted as an investor by Sweden and in accordance the EIB. (yes I know the suspicions). I think we may conclude… Read more »
ingvar
Member
5 years 13 days ago

You are right!
Nowdays we have “beencounters” in the political field. It seems now that they start to act a little, hopefully not too late,I thinking about the fact that the swedish ambassador in China yesterday, had a contact with
NDRC.

aap
Member
5 years 13 days ago
The problem with “beancounters” is of course that they have to little imagination. For instance, they cannot imagine what huge kind of bad publicity this is for Sweden in general. For me Sweden was always the country of the clever people with an nice informal, but thorough attitude. First you do things right and then you watch your waist. Now it is becoming the country with the easy-going people who don’t give a damn about what other people consider their core virtues. In other countries Saab is Sweden, much more than Volvo. It is small, it is clever, it has… Read more »
ingvar
Member
5 years 13 days ago

“To your government I would like to say Saab is a matter of national interest, and it is absolute a mistake not to recognise that.”
I fully agree!

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