The following is a background piece on Bard Eker, the Norwegian who owns 49% of Koenigsegg, as well as running his own industrial design business and Hydrolift boats.
He’s been the most vocal member of the Koenigsegg consortium and is probably the man who’s courted whoever the investors are behind the bid.
This piece was published today in Norway’s E24 news service and I’m very grateful for the translation that Arild has sent via email for me to share here.
NORWEGIAN SPEED PHANTOM ON SAAB HUNT
This week industrial designer Bård Ekere became father of a little baby. If the negotiations with General Motors are successful, he can get even one more baby – SAAB – over the weekend.
Facts about Bård Eker
Industrial designer and entrepreneur
Wealth: NOK 450 million, according to financial magazine Capital last summer.
Income: 0 according to the taxation lists for 2007
Currently: Interested in taking on SAAB.
Speed. Full speed. All the time. That’s how the Norwegian designer, multi millionaire and father Bård Eker likes it the best.
But yesterday, in his home town of Fredrikstad, he had to park far away from the microphones to the Norwegian and international media. A media that can not understand that he is the front man of a group based around the Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg, who now is the forerunner in taking over Swedish SAAB, although both Reuters and Sveriges Television reports that the group has already signed a letter of intent for the purchase of the car company.
– My dream is to buy SAAB, Eker said in an interview with E24 as late as mid-May.
Now the dream can come true. Yesterday, it became known in Sweden that SAAB’s bankrupt owner General Motors has agreed to write off debt. No later than the creditor meeting on Wednesday next week, GM will make public who the buyer is. If it is Eker and his group, and they succeed in taking over, big changes may await SAAB.
– There’s nothing that is run less efficiently than a car factory today. SAAB has 1200 engineers, and when you ask the boss why there are so many, the answer is that the learning guide for the automotive industry says it should be at the least 600. We are 10 man who develops the world’s fastest car, Koenigsegg, said Eker to E24.
Within just two days, Eker has gone from being unknown to most people in Norway to being hunted by major international media.
– We have received calls from many foreign media, including both the New York Times and Bloomberg, says Eker secretary, Siv Bjørnstad, to E24.
Boat and car
Eker has been called “the Ghost Who Walks” by his employees in Fredrikstad. He barely sleeps. Just working all the time. That is when he is not driving sports cars or racer boats to their limits. The Eker group has been built up over the last nine years around the design of everything from projectors to boats and cars and even child buggies. The design is very distinctive and extreme at times.
-If Bård takes over SAAB, soon there will be SAAB models with wings, said one aquantance of Eker jokingly.
The young Eker was to become an architect, but after studying at the National College of Art and at Pratt in New York, he started his own industrial design business in Norway in 1989. He designed, among other things, boats. And when the manufacturer of the Hydro-Lift boats went aground in Fredrikstad in 2002, he took over the bankrupt company. Since then, Hydro Lift has invested in fast and expensive boats.
But it is the design and production of exclusive data and video projectors that are now bringing the Eker group the biggest revenue. Last year Projectiondesign, where Eker owns 54 percent, had a net profit of NOK 73 million. Bill Gates has bought six projectors to his ultra-modern house, while Ferrari and McLaren-factories use them in Formula 1-simulators.
So far, his investment in Koenigsegg has not been as profitable. Eker has invested well over NOK 40 million for a stake of 49 percent in the super sports car. Koenigsegg is currently losing money, but last year the manufacturer only lost about 1 million dollars of a total turnover of approx. 90 million.
His car companion, Hans Christian von Koenigsegg, calls Eker the Norwegian Richard Branson in the Swedish media.
Eker is not unlike Branson of appearance, and also not when it comes to adventure. In 2004 he started offshore racing at sea. Allready the next year, he became world champion with Bjørn Rune Gjelsten’s old boat “Spirit of Norway” on which Eker had previously been a mechanic. In the speculations about who Eker has with him as investors in buying SAAB, it is the rich competitors from offshore racing and customers of Hydro Lift and Koenigsegg who are mentioned. But Gjelsten denies that he is in on the SAAB-deal, and says he has not had contact with Eker for a while.
There is little evidence to suggests that Eker has teamed up with his countrymen in the mysterious investor group.
Paul Åkerlund, who is head of the union IF Metall at the SAAB factory in Trollhättan, says he knows who’s behind with the capital to buy SAAB.
He will not say who it is, but tells the newspaper Aftenposten that he is confident that they have enough money.
-Is it Norwegian or foreign investors who are behind this?
– Norway is a too small, Åkerlund says.
Thanks again, Arild!