One of the reasons the Koenigsegg deal isn’t quite the ecstatic squal-inducing situation that the name suggests it should be is because there’s people in the background who not only seem to have – shall we say ‘questionable’ – past careers, and because they seem determined to keep themselves out of the spotlight.
One of those people – and I don’t know if there’s any more, but I’ve a feeling there are more – is an American guy by the name of Mark Bishop.
The Swedish newspaper, Dagens Industri, sent a few reporters over to the US to try and dig up some more information about him. They came up reasonably short. Most of what they found has already been mentioned here through research conducted by myself, Karen and a few others, but there are some interesting additions and extra context here that make it a worthwhile read.
This article hasn’t appeared online, so I owe Börjesson a huge debt of gratitude for the translation and the addition of it to last night’s comments.
The mystery surrounding Bishop thickens
SAN DIEGO/LOS ANGELES
Who is the mysterious American businessman behind Koenigsegg’s purchase of Saab Automobile? DI has investigated Mark Bishop’s business deals in southern California and found a man who is involved in a large number of companies that have dealt in high risk loans, so called subprime loans.
Nothing that DI has discovered suggests that he has any large fortune that could finance a takeover of Saab.
Before the Saab deal became known, 53 year old Mark Bishop was an anonymous San Diego businessman. He has no connection to the car industry or any other manufacturing industry.
Instead, Mark Bishop has spent the last 25 years working with loan financing for housing, and especialy so called subprime loans which are one of the reasons for the financial crisis. The idea was to give loans to people who for some reason had bad or no credit rating, and to charge high interest. The companies that Mark Bishop worked within had as their business idea to either negotiate loans or to package them into securities and receive a few tenths of a percent interest for their trouble.
“This was a market that was totally out of control, where companies gave loans to people who simply couldn’t pay them back”, says Paul Leonard, head of the interest group Center for Responsible Lending in California.
Saved by Citigroup
Paul Leonard has only come across the name Mark Bishop once. That was when the large American bank Citigroup was forced to rescue Mark Bishop’s company Quick Loan Funding. However, he says that Mark Bishop could well have been a major player in southern Californai without appearing on the group’s radar.
“There were so many companies that came and went that we simply couldn’t keep track of them all. I think that at the most there were between 50 and 100 companies dealing in subprime loans in California when the market was at its hottest. Today almost all of them are gone.”
Started in a bank
After a degree in economy from the University of California in Los Angeles, Mark Bishop began his career at the investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, where he among other things worked with packaging of loan based securities.
Drexel based its greatness on junk bonds during the 1980’s, but succumbed after it became known that associate Michael Milken had indulged in extensive improprieties.
After that, Mark Bishop by his own statement worked for housing loan company Impac, which was based in Irvine just south of Los Angeles. There he was among other things the CEO of daughter company Novelle Financial Services which negotiated high risk housing loans up until a few years ago.
Started several companies
After his time at Impac, Mark Bishop and a group of local businessmen have started a number of companies connected to the housing loan sector. Among the companies are ABS Financial Group, Team Nation Holdings and Quick Loan Funding.
Mark Bishop’s name also appears on the website of the Liquiddium company. It is an investment company that, by its own statement, invests in real estate sold from bankrupt companies. On the company website, there is no record of how much the company has actually invested or how big their assets are.
Large sums in circulation
On several of the companies’ websites, it is claimed that Mark Bishop and his colleagues have handled loans and loan-based securities for a total of 100 billion dollars. At Impac alone, he supposedly packaged housing loans for about 10 billion dollars into securities. In spite of this, there is no indication that he is a wealthy man.
DI has read documents that indicate that Mark Bishop has a yearly income of about 1 million kronor and a fortune of a few million dollars. His greatest asset is his home in exclusive suburb Rancho Santa Fe. The property is valued at about 5 million dollars. However, it is mortgaged, so it isn’t clear how much he will get out of it when the debts are repaid.
Additionally, Mark Bishop owns two million shares in car maker Koenigsegg. Their market value is said to be a few million dollars.
In a divorce suit
Relevant to the matter is that Mark Bishop is currently divorcing his wife Cynthia Knight. They have been married for 20 years and have two teenage daughters. By California law, a substantial part of the money will go to her in the settlement. If the Saab deal is finalized, she may possibly become a part-owner of the Swedish car maker.
Most of the divorce papers aren’t public yet, but what can be determined confirms the image of Mark Bishop as wealthy by Swedish, but not American, standards.
DI hasn’t managed to find any present or former business partner willing to talk about Mark Bishop. Impac, where he was supposedly deputy CEO and CEO for one of the daughter companies, don’t even want to confirm that he worked there.
“Unfortunately, we can’t make any comments,” says the spokesman Justin Moisio.
An employee at one of the companies where Mark Bishop worked describes the businessman as a “deal maker”. He is not in the Saab deal for his knowledge of the car industry, this source claims.
“Mark Bishop is a person who can get a project done. He has an enormous network of contacts both in the US and abroad. I know that he has been introduced to Putin (president of Russia),” says DI’s source, and goes on:
“Obviously, GM has judged that the group behind Koenigsegg has the required financial resources. I have no idea if he personally has that money or if there are other, anonymous financers in the background.”
Börjesson also added the following in comments……
In addition to the above article and the two fact boxes, the paper also has a column by the same reporter describing his difficulties in finding any information on Bishop. It adds a bit of colour but no new hard facts. Further, there is an editorial with, I thought, quite interesting and insightful, albeit somewhat gloomy, comments on the situation. I won’t translate most of it (I’ve spent enough time on this already!) but here are the final two paragraphs:
That good old Saab may only be appealing to the vultures of the financial market is hard to stomach. But the bitter truth is that the company is a notorious lossmaker and that it’s more vulnerable than ever, now that all solutions with Fiat or other major manufacturers seem stone dead.
If the supposed buyers appear to be a motley group of fairly atypical car industrialists, this also says something about the situation for Saab Automobile.
Finally, this seriously well-stocked paper also contains a story on the connections between Koenigsegg Group and Russia, and another story on how the government will have great difficulties in finding collateral for the 4.8 billion kronor EIB loan, as Saab doesn’t have anything worth that much.
My 2 cents…..
I’ve said enough times that Bishop’s career path is one that I find to be un-palatable on a personal level. I think he’s probably got more money that what DI.se suggests, but perhaps it’s more important to note his ‘dealmaker’ reputation.
The Koenigsegg Group appears to be a holding company formed for the purposes of this deal and I think Bishop and Augie Fabela are the prime movers in this team. It’s quite possible that they’re fronting for connections and money that want to remain even further in the background than what they are.
They mystery is annoying, though it doesn’t imply that it’s evil.
What’s of interest to me is whether or not they want to, and whether or not they’re able to, take Saab further. They seem to have selected Koenigsegg and Eker as the front men for this endeavour. If they have the money and the skills, and if they can infuse Saab with the kind of technology and style that Koenigsegg are renowned for, then more power to them.
The sooner this deal gets done, the better. Then we can all just move on.