Antonov, Saab and their fans


Given the present situation, there are a number of problems I’d love to have in their stead.

Some of the comments left on SU the past couple of days are almost ecstatic. Most of you have seen them. Apparently a number of people told us that Antonov was a crook and Saab was better off without him.

First of all: An arrest does not guarantee a conviction in a court case. Antonov remains innocent until proven guilty.

With that out of the way, I am curious about what a worst case scenario would have been. We need to deploy the ‘what if?’-machine and go back in time.

April 2011, the production has been halted and Saab have apparently ran out of money. Saab’s management have been exploring opportunities in China for a few months, but they need a quick cash injection. Riksgälden (National Debt Office) approves Antonov, the Swedish Government do not bother rendering a verdict and EIB shoots down the deal. What if…?

Recently Saab revealed that sales were increasing every month and was progressing according to the business plan. However, the initial delay in ramping up production after GM near-liquidated Saab in January 2010 was more problematic than they could handle.

Had this steady increase in sales been allowed to continue, it is my understanding that Saab would have started seeing some profitability around this point in time.

Antonov’s investment would have kept the wheels rolling for the past seven months or so.

The “oh no, the guy is a crook!” revelation would have been, quite frankly, a luxury problem compared to the ones facing Saab at the moment.

If SweGov were aware of any ill doings on Antonov’s part, then they did two things wrong: 1) Failed to mention anything to Riksgälden (NDO) and 2) They were willing to sink thousands of jobs down the gutter in order to keep him away.

Their actions, to me, are much more serious than the charges Antonov is facing in Lithuania.

Finally, let us say Antonov is convicted a few months from now. What would have happened had he owned shares in Saab? I believe the answer is that the Lithuanian government would have seized his assets and either sold or kept his shares.

Again, for Saab as an organization that produces and sell cars, this would have been a luxury problem to face. A conviction would be bad news for Antonov, but for ‘us’ I do not think it would even register as a ‘blip’ on the radar.

Antonov currently owns a football club. I do not think for a minute that his arrest means they suddenly stop playing football in Portsmouth.

By the way: Riksgälden (NDO) are in close contact with Saab. My understanding is that there are few businesses in Sweden that are as closely watched as Saab has been the last two years.

This discussion also took place in December 2009, as well as in April this year. It is an ongoing discussion, and I continue to be baffled by people’s lack of pragmatism. It was obvious GM sought out a weak buyer. First Koenigsegg and then Spyker. Personally, I was negative towards Spyker. But once GM made their choice, you have to play the cards you are dealt. VM positively surprised many of us by his enthusiasm and energy. That does not necessarily excuse his mistakes, but at least he tried his hardest and for that he deserves some credit. Why didn’t e.g. VW buy Saab? GM did not want that to happen, that is the reason why.

Some have argued in the past that the best way out is bankruptcy: Clear all the debts and start from scratch. In my opinion this failed to take into account GM’s licenses (as well as the rights to use the Saab trademark). Which is exactly what is causing the Chinese buyers so much grief at the moment. A bankruptcy requires a huge leap of faith — one significantly bigger IMO than the one required back in April to accept Antonov. The situation now is much different and I fear we are about to find out just what this particular option brings to the table.

We live in interesting times.

59 thoughts on “Antonov, Saab and their fans”

  1. Victor apparently confirmed that he borrowed the 70 millions to buy SAAB (via Tenacci ) from Antonov back in 2010. And since then, they didn’t have any financial ties.
    Since than, VA has been checked by several parties including GM , NDO and EIB.

  2. So let me get this right – you would have been OK with Saab receiving money which in all likelihood was embezzled, and which will now be paid by Lithuanian taxpayers?

    Are you serious?

    Maybe VM should give a call to to Mexican drug cartels next. They could use a good business to laundry their money.

    • He has still not been put on trial.

      And back in March — there were only speculations.

      Heck yeah, I’d be able to live with that.

      What was the alternative?

      • Using the same “tolerance” you are exhibiting I must assume that in your opinion it would also be OK if a Swedish would banker embezzle money from a bank, invest it to a car company somewhere in China, and Swedish taxpayers would pay the bill.

        Even a bankruptcy is a better alternative.

    • The point is that VA was cleared by the NDO. He really was.
      And that he is innocent unless proven otherwise.

      Does it seem to you that buying Saab is all a plot to launder money? How does that work?

      Call on the drug cartels if you want but leave them out of this negotiation.

      • The point is that VA was cleared by the NDO. He really was.
        … and wasn’t cleared by Swedish secret police, FBI, nor European investment bank. In the light of recent events who seems to have done better job with their investigations, eh?

        And that he is innocent unless proven otherwise.
        True. But if similar cases in the past are any indication, changes of that happening are rather slim… I’m absolutely sure that there will be some VM/AV supporters who will claim that he was framed once he gets (likely) convicted.

        “Does it seem to you that buying Saab is all a plot to launder money? How does that work? Call on the drug cartels if you want but leave them out of this negotiation.”
        I think you happily missed my point of using Mexican drug cartel as a “over the top” example …

            • moose, look at the dates. January 2010 on all those links as far as I can tell.

              NDO’s preliminary report on Antonov stopped Antonov in December 2009. As I recall, both Säpo and FBI were used as sources for that report.

              However, the final edition of that report cleared Antonov.

              So again, care to be specific?

              • Hmmmm… And how did NDO’s further investigations change Säpo’s and FBI’s reports?

                After receiving alarm from Säpo/FBI, NDO had two investigations of it’s own conducted. Based on these investigations NDO made their own decision to discard Säpo/FBI recommendations and clear Antonov. This decission taken by NDO did not change the stance of EIB (or invalidate any Säpo/FBI recommendations).

                As mentioned, taken in to account the recent events it looks like Säpo/FBI/EIB got it right.

                • Feel free to back up your claims with one or two references.

                  Säpo / FBI never factored into the equation as organisations that needed to be consulted in order to approve / reject anything at all. They raised some questions that NDO looked into. That’s it.

                  The topic at hand at that point was concerns raised after the assasination attempt on Antonov’s father. Accusations of embezzling was still two years into the future and we still have no idea how that will play out. Your timeline is out of whack.

                  Meanwhile… Thousands of jobs. {sound of flushing toilet}

                  A more interesting question is what EIB did to investigate Antonov. I have never seen any indication that EIB considered anything other than NDO’s preliminary report.

            • moose,
              As Rune said; that round of investigations, that someone informed the FBI and later that GM stopped the sale in 2009, (informed via US Gov or some else over there), is old news. There was also a preliminary report (from the NDO) that apparently got circulated.

              So, you’ll have to be a bit more specific; just mentioning some names of police forces etc. doesn’t cut it (or linking to random search results).

        • @moose..

          For lack of anything solid regarding the investigations about VA, you resort to incompetence of the NDO.
          You are a fully bloated Idiot, doing exactly the same that you are accusing everybody of the Crew of, and adding a little insinuation that VA could under no circumstances be innocent.

          And this was said without a Smiley

  3. Mexican drogcartels most possibly do not need any money laundering service, as they live in outlaw conditions. I guess they do not submit regular tax return applications and possible legal actions against their activity is most probably not triggered by revenue office’s nagging suspicions. Just a thought.

    moose, honestly, would you finally find the peace of mind if Saab goes bust? I am really curious and swear will never tell anyone what your answer was… (Feel free to ask me why I bring up this question.)

    • The “Mexican drug cartel” was on over the top example used to illustrate that we have to draw the line somewhere what we are willing to accept in order to Saab to survive.

      Personally I think that the line has most definitely been crossed if Rune says that he would be OK to save Saab with money which would be proven to be embezzled and would be paid by Lithuanian tax payers.

      • When I replied to your first comment, I did not read your last paragraph.

        That is why I immediately followed up with “You seem to think that the money would be lost.”.

        Finally, Marque draws up an important note that you keep missing: Laundering money through an automobile manufacturer is not very convenient. Doubly so with such a profiled and visible company like Saab. It…does…not…compute.

        Which is why my original posting mentioned the NDO and their close relationship to Saab.

  4. Without any evidence whether VA is guilty or not and with all respect to what VA intended to do for Saab :

    Those who lived a part of their lives behind the iron courtain and 10-15 years after the change, know, that individuals owning significant amounts of funds (8+ digits in €) in most cases didn’t earned them legally and/or morally. In most cases, not in all of them. VA might be one of the exceptions (which confirms the rule) but nobody of us knows for sure. So please understand the scepticism, there were too many examples of apparent purity against the law to simple believe that everything is fine.

    This was not a luxury problem, this was a principle question. And believe me, for a Saab fan a very tough one.

  5. I don’t think this is a very important topic any more. The only important thing to consider is if the potential use of client money by VA affects current negotiations and a possible sale / change in ownership of Saab before a potential bankruptcy.

    Besides that, Rune, I think you are mixing up quite a few things.
    It was not the Swedish government, but the EIB that prevented Antonov as a shareholder and never intended to have him as a shareholder. The only thing you can blame the government is that they did not inform Saab about it.

    But maybe the government supposed that Saab was informed by the EIB itself, and did not reveal it therefore additionally, who knows. The point is that VM and VA – apparently due to lack of information – made a huge error of judgement back in April. They probably underestimated the snowball effect of the liquidity crisis. They tried to use the risk of job losses at Saab and the press associated with it in order to impose VA as an additional shareholder of the company. If initially they would not have linked shareholder advances to VA’s approval as an investor, they could at that time have resolved the liquidity crunch with much less money than necessary later on, when each months salaries and other expenses had to be paid without revenues coming in.

    • I seem to remember that the NDO seemed pretty upset that they were not informed by EIB, before starting the approval investigations the last time, so if SweGov knew but didn’t tell Saab because they thought EIB had informed them, they also forgot to inform themselves

      Quite possible, but not really well executed statesmanship.

      And yes, VM and VA miscalculated.

    • Michaelb, there was an interview with Maud after NDO gave their blessing where she kept dodging the question of approval.

      SweGov could have approved Antonov and then started pushing/encouraging EIB to do the same. They chose not to. Not rendering a verdict (either way) sends a signal of its own.

      In addition, there was a pesky rumour at the time that there existed a verbal agreement between EIB and SweGov officials to never approve Antonov.

      It looked to me at the time that SweGov knew they could not dismiss Antonov themselves and deferred criticism by letting EIB do the deed. (also accounts for why they did not inform the NDO)

      I could not help but smile a bit when a news source reported a few months ago that GM said they would not comment on the deal before EIB and SweGov had approved it. (That was prior to the deal changing to 100% btw)

      SweGov had plenty of opportunities to fix the problem at hand. They chose not to.

  6. Let’s have one thing in miand: corruption exists in all countries.
    In some countries, this is a more open phenomenon than in others. Bankers are not exempted. That said, Antonov may not be corrupt at all – but why would he not have colleagues who are?
    And if I were an unscrupulous Mr. Scrooge, so probably this was a real golden opportunity? 😉

    We do not know who lurks among the reeds…

  7. pangda cannot sent the money for the wages etc…… and tomorrow it will be something else and ……..
    As a saab dealer i have lost all faith , THIS IS THE END !!!!

    • The situation is complicated, to say the least. And for you as a dealer, well I suggest to look for a secondary brand. But as long as there is an intact plant, intact workforce, and the right spirit, there is still hope. Like VM said: he got a whole car manufaturer for the price of one and a half wind tunnels. He just ran out of money. But a stronger investor might not. imho, this will not be YMPD, or NSC, or whatever. Must be bigger.

      • I’m busy with looking for
        a secondary brand, I just hope that SAAB will survive , I like SAAB so much . I’m already more then 30 years SAAB dealer and what happens now is so terrible.No more cars in the showroom, customerorders that we are loosing because everething is lasting so long , etc…… Its time for a good solution ……

  8. Interesting piece in a UK newspaper –
    District Judge Caroline Tubbs granted both men conditional bail.

    Antonov must pay a security of £75,000, surrender his passport, live and sleep at his London home, and report to Notting Hill police station between 8am and 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    Baranauskas was released on condition that Antonov’s wife puts up surety of £250,000 for him and that he surrenders his passport, lives at the address in Kent and reports to Bromley police station daily between 8am and 10am.

    The interesting bit is that VA`s bail has been set so much lower than his business partner`s. Not that it helps – – and saablover, KEEP YOUR CHIN UP!

  9. Firstly, just because Saab may have been the end recipient of some of the funds that are now missing (can’t be all, because that’s reputed to be $2.6 billion) does not make Saab crooked. It consumed a voracious amount of cash, but all legally!

    Is VA innocent until proven guilty? Legally yes… Court of public opinion? Clearly not so. I’m sure GM didnt decide that he couldnt be involved without the US authorities telling them something. Same with EIB, and so on.

    There must have been enough red flags at high levels that were not provable in a western court, however, enough to Indicate caution in climbing into bed with him.

    SU was a big supporter of him then, but so what? This story has had so many twists and turns, what was then, is so different to what is now. supporting him for the altruistic reason of helping Saab isn’t a crime, even if in hindsight it appears misguided.

    VA may lose his empire, maybe deservedly, but it’s hardly going to affect anyone who posts on these boards.

  10. So VA is guilty because you are sure US authorities told GM something that they won’t reveal to the rest of the world???

    Why doesn’t that make me feel better…

  11. Rune: very good post which tells the truth with no make up. I am happy to read it even if I think that the pragmatism of SU crew sustaining VM and VA could gave been more clearly revealed before…. I am 100% ok and could not have written it in a more accurate and precise way (even in french 🙂 ) than you did.

    Did one party involved in Saab’s business plan be not aware of the “no” to VA? think that every one (VM VA BEI GM NDO) knew it since 2010. So why not sell Saab in time that it could be? Because GM would not have allow it or because Saab was no more “bankable” ? This is the really non politicaly correct question regarding our beloved brand since feb 2011.

  12. “in all likelihood embezzeled” Not true yet, but an assumption made by you, outside of any court

    Blaming NDO of incompetence for approving VA, or even bending for political pressure to do this. Which is what the Crew has been accused of when being critical of EIB, SweGov, GL etc.

    If you want to be critical of the way the Crew handles their posts and opinions, you should apply the same critisism to your own writings.

    Apart from that, I disagree with Rune in the stance that any money are good money.

    • Some people are alluding, insinuating, left and right. I agree with you. We don’t know what has happened; who has done what. That said, in the Snoras case they say that they saw declining reserves.

      Still not much of a connection to Saab’s situation now.

      As for conspiracy theories, since they seem to be en vogue; how about a connection between the chairman of the central bank in Lithuania and GM? 😉

      The chairman of the Bank of Lithuania worked as a lawyer, and partner, I think, during 2004-2011 at a law firm which did some work for GM during GM’s time under chap. 11.

  13. My two penny worth:

    1. Saab is not Swedish, it’s Lithuanian, so let’s move it there..

    2. The Chinese say Yes & the Chinese say No, no wonder GM, have little faith in their proposals.

  14. Noticing a trend of personal attacks at one another that used to be quite rare. Let’s all play nice people and the name calling / snide little insults should be kept out of this forum. We are Saab people, not schoolyard bullies.

    • +1

      We. Are. Not. Schoolyard. Bullies.

      Very well formulated.
      That is a very Saabish comment. Saab is Not Bullying.
      As a matter of fact it is to some extent something I have against Audi for instant. Over the last 20 years they have moved from underdog to Schoolyard Bully. Notice how an A7 looks at you when it approaches you fast from behind. It is Not Subtle.
      And subtleties were something Audi was good at before.

      Saab Up!

  15. GM – PANG DA

    Let us be a bit more pragmatic…

    If GM wants to keep its own technology (9-5 and 9-4X in particular),
    if GM fears a future possible competition on their 1st market (China) of YL-SAAB,
    if they are ok to writte off a bit better their current licences used by Saab,
    if the Swedish Government should be likely to do something to cooperate with GM in ordre to limit unemployement,
    as now Swan is definitly out the picture and that Saab's interest shall prevail,

    then, would it be possible to see a happy return home of Saab to GM?

    Because, you know whatever catch line anti-GM we read, I think, this could be the best option now for Saab and possibly for GM to see its 320M$ preferences shares and credits (as provider) back in their purse.

    I do not know if this is something forseable for GM financial analysts, but for us this option should be the best now especially if Pang Da can still collaborate with its network. And nothing to be ashamed of when we actually admit that no current Saab product would exist without GM technology (and that is the clear and fair message they have given to us since october)

  16. Although SAAB is important to us, GM has probably had enough of SAAB. Whatever benefit they are realizing from SAAB may not be worth the aggravation and exposure to GM. I suspect that SAAB has become a distraction that GM would rather not have.

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