Victor helping Brightwell

di.se report that Victor is back on stage:

As an advisor to the Turkish Brightwell Holdings, one of the stakeholders to buy Saab, Victor Muller once again has an important role in Saab’s survival.

“I know Victor Muller well and it is difficult to stop his enthusiasm for the brand. We get much help from him,” said Ahmed Zamier, a director and shareholder of Brightwell Holdings, writes Dagens Industri.

The Turkish company claims to have funding in part by oil interests in the Middle East and also the full support of the Turkish state. On Wednesday, representatives of Brightwell Holdings are coming to Sweden for several days of meetings with Saab Automobile’s bankruptcy trustee. The goal is to make a bid for the company.

“Our plan is to start production as soon as possible with as many models as possible,” said Ahmed Zamier to Dagens Industri.

Saab’s suppliers have responded Brightwell Holdings’ interest with great skepticism.

I yet have to see a proof for the great skepticism of the suppliers towards Brightwell. In the end, there are not too much infos about their bid due to the confidentially agreement so it will be hard to judge for those outside the inner circle. And I can imagine that the suppliers would be happy with anyone who has a proper plan and the financial ressources to bring Saab back on its feet.

I like the quote about getting started again as soon as possible with as many models as possible. I feel like Youngmans statements giving definete amounts of weeks until production can start may fuel over-optimistic hopes. For any buyer restarting Saab is a huge task, financially as well as in terms of organization. Staying a bit more vague may be more honest in my view.

Victors involvement will of course polarize a lot. Regardless of what you think about his leadership he is of course one of those who know a lot about the company and can help a potential buyer getting the right bid into place.

Generally spoken it is of course good to see that talks with potential suitors are ongoing. This means things are moving and that the vague timeline to get a deal done until the beginning of March is realistic.

83 thoughts on “Victor helping Brightwell”

  1. That’s good… but I understand the skepticism of the suppliers, specially when reading “as many models as possible”. It sounds to good to be true…and relies on GM ?

    • ASAP is ASAP and not immediately
      as many models as possible could end in zero (as possible)
      The mentioned investor shows the financial force of Brightwell. Dependent from external investors. We’ve been there, we’ve seen that..
      The wordings told nothing new. I wait for an outcome (whatever we see).

    • I completely understand their skepticism as well with Brightwell. Does anyone remember the last time an investor group took over a car company? It was Cerberus with Chrysler and they almost killed the company because they bit off way more than they could chew and investors just stopped investing in what they saw as a money pit. When Chrysler was taken over by Fiat, they revealed that the company had nothing in development because thee was no cash. Investor groups are made of of investors who want a return on their money and with a company as far down into the hole as Saab, that’s going to be A LOT of money and it’s going to be a very long time before they see that money recouped. Just like Chrysler, I predict that they would get tired of pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into development and just the day to day costs. Plus, they have no experience running and rebuilding a car company, I really think, much like VM (who I respect greatly for saving Saab), they are just going to bite off more than they can chew. This whole middle eastern oil money connection might seem like an endless supply of cash to some but it’s a huge red flag to me. What kind of cars do we really think oil tycoons want to buy? Right sized enviromentally friendly sporty hatches with battery assist? I doubt it. It’s just my opinion but I really think they only way for Saab to survive is with ownership by a larger car company that has the stomach and the patience to preform the investment Saab really needs. I don’t doubt VM’s intentions, I think he truly cares about the company and I credit him with saving Saab but his endorsement for brightwell does little for me.

  2. I am not so sure I like that the Turkish state is behind Brightwell. It has nothing to do with ethniticity, I might add, but it means that Saab would (again) be in the hands of politicians, and see where it got us so far.
    And I am also a bit sceptical of the economics in the countries around the mediterranean. The seem to have one thing in common; bad economy.

    In this case I vote for M&M. 🙂

  3. difficult to see the rationale behind bh, vm has every right to try and recoup his losses, wish swade would spill the beans on the actions by vm which led saab to this position…..

    • I know that some here have kind of sanctified Jan Ake Jonsson but it wás actually he -and not Muller- who was CEO and the responsible person when the worst sh!t around Saab started to happen. And those ridiculous marketing campaigns that achieved exactly nothing also happened on his watch. I kind of doubt JAJ is the kind of guy who would let another person, even someone as persuasive as VM, just ride roughshod over him and take all the crucial decisions so, as I see it, he should shoulder at least a part of the responsibility as well.

      All right, let it come…

      Ivo

      • Saab had an entire department devoted to marketing, did they not?

        In a company of that size, how much interaction does a CEO (and / or the owner) have with the marketing dept.?

        I am just a systems developer, but I would feel strange if my CEO started reading my source code and make ‘helpful’ suggestions. (maybe that is what happened? :P) It is, after all, not his area of expertise.

        Of course, if I consistently produced bad code over time, then I would expect the CEO to take notice and remedy that somehow.

        But one year is not a lot of time in the automotive industry. By the time the crisis struck, focus was understandably elsewhere.

  4. The keywords in Till’s write-up are “…and the financial resources to bring Saab back on its feet.”

    Another underfunded VM-constantly-chasing-money-solution would be a disaster. A well funded independent Saab on the other hand would be another story.

    So there has to be substantial funds behind this option, otherwise the bid would make no sense compared to Mahindra for example..

  5. As Jason Powell states M&M is made up of a lot of subsidiaries that together have a lot of experience , skill and the knowhow to build and market cars, suv’s, trucks etc on a global basis, whereas Brightwell is a holding company. Don’t know much about Brightwell, so I may be wrong. How many cars has Brightwell made? VM didn’t make much cars either and you can say that he was unsuccessful. Wasn’t he an accountant. I have great respect for him, don’t get me wrong but he was also in the same business as Brightwell, I think.

    • Not an accountant. Victor Muller was -and is- a lawyer specializing in large-scale M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) involving the turnaround of an ailing company. And a pretty succesful one, having succeeded in bringing several reasonably large companies back into the black, followed by a profitable introduction at the share exchange or a sale to other parties. Seen from that point of view, it could be said that he and the people at Brightwell are in the same type of business.

      Ivo

    • Vagabond, don’t be to quick to write them off. I’ve been doing some digging to try to put something together on Brightwell and their history and their array of companies is quite broad, they have for instance a boat company that has been working on alternative fuels and electric models and Alphan Manas is very well connected through dealings within the Government and business. As much as Brightwell has been in business since 2006, Manas has a proven track record and is considered a thinker of the future and himself and the company have a great record of management. We don’t know their full story on their bid or investors involved, but from what I have seen, everything they do is well thought out.

    • There’s always talk before action though. There is some definite substance to this group and they don’t seem like a company that would just blindly throw money around.

  6. It is difficult to get information about Brightwell so i am still a little bit sceptic towards them. But honestly I dont really cares about who owns Saab. I just want a potential owner to take care of the trademark and having a lot of capital to run the company. I hope that Saab can get a owner like this.

    • It’s funny how the Europeans don’t seem to care about who owns Saab. I guess maybe they think they will be taken care of by the new owner regardless. But for the non-Europe crowd, who owns Saab makes a huge difference, because we think that most of these entities will not care about many of us and let many of us die on the vine.

      • Don’t see the logic in this. If the buyer of Saab, whoever it will be, continues producing cars then they will also give a warranty and provide the owners with parts and service for them, in Europe, in America and wherever else they will (re-)establish a market presence. And haven’t you heard about Saab Parts having resumed parts deliveries for Saabs now running on the road? In America as well, I understand.

        Ivo

  7. Who else but Victor Muller has proven capable of negotiating successfully with GM?
    1) When Spyker bought Saab from GM.
    2) When finding a GM-passable legal setup with Youngman and Pang Da topped with enough Spyker ownership not to trigger change-of-power clauses? (before Lofalk and the Chinese went behind VM’s back and destroyed everything, annoying GM)
    When it comes to negotiating, this man knows what he’s doing. I will follow the Brightwell trail more closely.

    • That could be the reason why Brightwell wants VM aboard, among other aspects. But what about the other bidders? Mahindra and the mysterious 4th bidder might have other cards as well when it comes dealing with GM.

      • Stockhom News

        The bankruptcy trustee of Saab Automobile Hans Bergqvist, confirms that several so called “indicative offers” have been presented to him. This confirmation comes after a couple of weeks of speculations in the media about interested parties in Chinese Youngman and Indian Mahindra. Also Swedish actors have been mentioned. However Hans Bergqvist does not want to reveal who have made the offers.

        Indicative offers are not binding but seen as serious. Hans Bergqvist estimates that a buyer will be presented in “some weeks”. The idea is that this buyer will also take over the car production in Trollhättan.

        SVT

        Mats Öhlén

        [email protected]

    • Negotiating with GM? Maybe, but the negotiating from a couple years ago put GM in the drivers seat (no pun intended) now. Saab is now GM’s hostage. Regarding VM supporting BW Holdings: I’m assuming he’s a (well) paid consultant? Also—-one other thing—-I actually prefer a specific goal/specific timeline (even if it’s not met) as opposed to a vague projection. I’d rather hear a politician tell me what he or she wants to do, and when—-so that I have something to hold that person to if I vote for them. The one who talks in generalities doesn’t have any culpability.

      • Saab was always GM’s hostage. Hell GM seller financed, three fourths of the sale purchase to Spyker. I am sure GM would have loved to have had a complete buy out, but no buyers emerged.

        • @davidgmills, Again… Sources for this?

          I remember there were many interested parties back in 2009. A few of us sensed even then that GM had an agenda. In the final round they narrowed it down to Renco, Merbanco and Koenigsegg (possibly one other?). Funny how Renco, the one we knew had the most cash on hand, was the first to go.

          Their ‘no Chinese’ requirement surely is not a new one. The ownership clauses embedded into various contracts were not put there by accident.

          GM had various other steep demands (concerning dealers e.g.) that certain parties found hard to cope with. All in all, they made our prom queen wear the ugliest dress possible and then made sure all the prince charmings were kept off the property.

          • Come on. These really were not top buyers. It is not like any of these had run a major car manufacturing business and had lots of experience. Spyker and Koenigsegg had some car manufacturing business but it was for high end low volume cars. The rest had none. GM had put a billion dollars into purchasing Saab and it makes sense to me that if they were going to continue on with Saab they wanted the best experience they could get to try to get some of the investment back. We will never know what happened with Koenigsegg, but I always wondered how a low volume supercar company was going to switch gears and run a high volume car business. It is pretty clear now that Spyker wasn’t able to do it. I think GM’s concerns were quite justified.

            • There were others interested prior to that point.

              GM picked these for a reason, and to me it looks as if GM wanted them to fail (you are basically arguing the same point, but reach a different conclusion at the end…).

              The only odd one out is Renco, because they (as I understand it) had plenty of funding, but then again: They reached the final but were turned down.

              It would have taken quite a bit of money to shut down Saab outright. Better then to find someone who, on paper, could make Saab work, but would most likely fail. Makes for better publicity.

              Spyker was actually set up on the right path, so GM knocked Antonov out of the equation and initiated liquidation of Saab prior to handing over the keys to the factory.

  8. “Middle Eastern Oil Money” I’m in for that!! Don’t count out Turkey, I think this would be a good thing. They sound pretty serious and want to keep Saab as a whole. I think the bid should inclide a deal with GM. This is the problem, we must get a deal with the General!!

      • I wouldn’t even fully count that out. One of the funniest lines I found searching through Brightwell news was one that went something like “we are in contact with GM, of coarse we are not talking to their spokesperson, but other people in GM” made me think, just how big is James Cain? I’m sure he’s no decision maker, so maybe the door isn’t completely shut. Both Brightwell and Mahindra with their work in alternative fuels and different markets could have something to offer GM. But really who knows?

  9. Sure. Victor made some bad judgements while SWAN was in the ownership of SAAB.
    Yes, they should have had more money.
    BUT: If there is i potential buyer with Victor as an advisoring function, I´m all in. IF they can get agreement with GM I´m all in. Sure I´d love a 100% independent Saab from GM, but hey. A reborn Saab needs models to sell in order to have a life. Don´t forget that the 9-5 and 9-4X are fantastic vehicles.
    If BWH have sufficient funds to make Saab come back on its feet (and I thibk we are talking about 5-6 years before all badwill has disappeared) THEN I´m all in!!
    BWH & Victor UP!!

    • More money won’t increase sales dramatically for the 9-4 and 9-5 but more money and development of a broader vehicle line—-that will move more Saabs. My concerns about this deal? Simply, I don’t think with GM involved, it will be a world wide brand anymore. They will stomp out the markets where they don’t want Saab/BW to sell cars. They will put ridiculous conditions on future operations. In short, they will be GM.

  10. Surprised to hear this statement. Brightwell isn’t a major company, its almost unheard of and they don’t have enough funds for such operation. Seems like they accept this and say they’ll find money from 2 sources.

    1- Middle East Oil ! So what’s the connection with Turkey and Brightwell ? Turkey isn’t in middle east and doesn’t have a drop of oil resource. Does Brightwell or their oil company (what is it by the way ?) have interest in middle east oil or such ? Any proof ? Swedish or Norwegian companies probably have more exposure to Middle East oil than Turkish companies.

    2-Turkish Government is behind them ? That’s a pretty big lie. Turkish gov clearly stated that they -might- support Fiat or Ford’s JV companies in Turkey for having a new local brand. I have hard time seeing such a minor player as Brightwell to get any support. It seems like Swedish press just buys this false claim without questioning. Could they come up with the same claim to Turkish press ? They would be bashed pretty rapidly

    so they mention 2 souces of cash and both are not true and not there. no comment on Victor’s involvement there
    my 5 cents:
    they don’t have any fund or whatsoever for this operation, its just playing ball game on many fiels, trying to fish Turkish Government with the possibility of producing electric cars in Turkey and meanwhile trying to get as much as publicity and wasting ppl’s time and effort

    • I was thinking some of the same things you wrote. Something doesn’t sit well with me on this one. I don’t think BW is the best “new parent” in the room, not by a mile. Maybe this isn’t a fair analogy (and believe me when I say I am very appreciative for everything VM had done to keep Saab around—-without him, they’d have died a while ago): But here goes—-the receivers are like judges in a custody hearing, trying to decide where a child should go to live—-i.e. who should get to adopt them. Now, we’re hearing from the parent who lost custody, with advice of who should get the kid next. Get it?

      • BUT, there was also the comments from the Administrators, how helpful VM had been to them, helping them to understand Saab…..enthusiasm
        spreads.

    • No offense but i should add;

      1- BH is in the electricity business rather than oil, as far as i know. Turkey has about 100.000 barrels per day in oil production and process, EU alone has 2.000.000.
      Make a brief research about “Arab Spring”, if you dig out, you will see Turkey, that i think will sum up the Turkish relationship and power on Middle East.
      2- Turkish Government stated that any kind of progress on national car brand “will be” supported in many ways. Just yesterday Minister of Industry and Trade has told that the support will be on free land, lower tax, cheap resourses, and labour force. Some of these are already provided on many big game players on local production.

  11. I don’t think a co-operation beween Brightwell and VM is such a bad thing. VM was, as pointed out before, the only one who had a deal in place with GM until the ‘we want 100%’ cowboy action by Guy Lofalk and Youngman, after which GM slammed the door. If BH and VM could get GM to co-operate in the takeover by ceasing to be so intransigent regarding the NG 9-5 and the 9-4X then that would make the restart and continuation of Saab much less difficult. It may even get the 9-5 SC onto the road!

    Moreover, VM has some very good connections in the Middle East. Mubadala, for one, is still a major shareholder in SWAN and Spyker. Despite all the past drama and heavy losses on their investments, they haven’t pulled out so far. And they do have experience in the automotive sector as they also own considerable chunks of share capital in various car companies. These people know exactly what is needed for a resurrected brand to restore confidence on the markets and would certainly not skimp on the funding of a worldwide marketing, advertising and branding effort.

    As to the operational leadership of Saab under BH: if enough funding is available to pull Saab out of excrement creek and put it back on the right track then it should not be all that difficult to find and appoint top people from the automotive industry to take care of that. A combination of good enough remuneration and an interesting challenge may even attract people like Mullally, the saviour of Ford.

    Finally, as to the role of the Turkish government: we had that discussion here a while ago and received some valuable insights on that from Turkish SU members. The TurkGov wouldn’t participate in terms of money. It has been said, however, that they would support the BH effort by considering Saabs built in Sweden under Turkish ownership as Turkish-built cars and, for that reason, not levy the enormous duties Turkey normally imposes on imported cars. That would make Saab cars eminently competitive on the -very big- Turkish domestic light premium car market. Have you, for example, ever seen how many taxis drive around in big Turkish cities? Now that would be one big market segment to conquer.

    Don’t dismiss Brightwell too lightly. They seem to be the only contender who is apparently in touch with GM (at least, that’s what they say and it is not all that improbable, given the involvement of VM and the requirement of the Receivers to demonstrate that as a fact) and also possibly the only one who doesn’t threaten the commercial interests of GM enough for them to nix the deal again. Moreover, they are the only bidder who stated unequivocally that, if chosen, they will continue building Saabs in Trollhättan AND ADD some Saab-developed electric or hybrid/electric vehicle production in Turkey. Youngman have said that as well but remained rather hazy about how they will do it and what exactly they plan to build there without GM on their side. If the idea is to just drop a Chinese-built engine into the OG 9-3 and supplement its production by assembling their own Youngman/Lotus-badged Proton-licensed cars then I wonder how long something like that is sustainable in real life. Mahindra have, so far, said exactly nothing at all. And as to that wild electric-car idea, well, in my opinion that really would signify the death of Saab as we know and love it.

    Ivo

    • Agreed. There is no reason at all to dismiss BW at this stage, whatever me may think of VM in positive or negative terms.

      The key though is adequate funding. Another underfunded rescue mission is doomed to fail.

      If there really is substantial funding behind their approach they should be taken as a serious contender. But there has to be enough funding commited from start by the principal financiers to reach break-even. Secondary financing rounds should not be part of a turnaround plan. Otherwise we are back to the familiar chasing money to survive merry-go-round.

      • You’re right of course that there should be funding from the start on a turnaround plan. But my quess is that this is a secondary consideration for the receivers. Their mission is to obtain the maximum amount of money for the creditors now. Someone less well funded might be willing to put down more money upfront, and I would imagine that the receivers might have difficulty in justifying the selection of someone else.

        • Saving SAAB and putting it on first “break even” and later even profitable path will be very much question of trust in the new SAAB and the new owners. So, if the buyer doesn’t seem to have money, or have secret oil funds or whatever in that sense, the buyers will not queuing to buy SAAB cars not matter how good they are. Spicing that with Victor Muller (no matter how much I respect the man) will just not help that. Sorry VM but you are not a good reference for Brightwell.
          SAAB now needs, as we said many times before bags of money in order to get out of this limbo.

          • Currently VM is only advising BW during the bid phase, so no need too discredit BW only because of that. They also have people from Ford and JLR advising them.

            • I am not trying to discredit VM for anything. I am just saying what the picture could look like if Brightwell acquires SAAB. I can only imagine articles in the press. Also I don’t think the subcontractors would be very happy, they have already expressed their suspect. remember, they have already adapted to no-SAAB situation, and if the new owner doesn’t prove that it is reliable with payments, they will not jump to that train. And I will tell again: VM, even as a consultant, doesn’t help building that confidence.

              • Firstly, I’m not talking about discrediting VM, but the Brightwell bid.
                Secondly, the CLEPA not liking BW has only been stated one time on a di-Article, and since now the sources from di.se are not always 100% reliable.
                And thirdly, nobody knows how much money BW has, it is too easy to start speculating about this.

                So all in all, to me, the BW bid is as good as the M&M bid or the bid from the unnamed company (I’m starting to have some doubts about the YM bid), and I don’t care much about the preferences of the press. There is only a group of about 50 lawyers that will have access to all the bids, and I can only hope, that those Lawyers don’t only think about the fast buck, but try to give the company the best possibilities for the future.

              • I don’t know them, I only know what Ahmed Zamier from BW has said to the Swedish press.

                In response to all the doubting industry skeptics say Zamier that he hired a car group of 10 individuals with “people from, for example, Ford and Land Rover.” Those currently working in Sweden to prepare “a detailed bid,” said the financier to the newspaper.

  12. Worth thinking about …

    Turkish new passenger car registrations in 2011 were around 600,000 ( including around 70% imports).

    Turkey manufactured 1.2m vehicles in 2011 (640,000 being cars).

    Currently, this represents assembly of non Turkish manufacturers products with some local export potential. The main players are Renault, Fiat, Hyundai, Honda and Toyota. Labour rates are low and local assembly optimises local costs and taxes.

    Prime Minister Erdogan’s new government intends to reduce import duties and move towards the establishment of a Turkish motor industry. They also intend to forge closer links with EU and ultimately become a full member.

    Hopefully that puts a few more parts of the jig saw in place.

  13. Something just reeks foul with both Youngman and Brightwell. I’m not sure Victor Muller’s interaction in this negotiation is a good thing. Despite the positive assessment that most of us have about him, several high ranking individuals don’t share our view. Thereby, the entire “guilty by association” stereotype can actually hurt Brightwell.

    I’d like to see maximum effort put forth in finding a cooperation with Mahindra. I don’t know if I’m biased consideration the great things India based Tata has done with Jaguar and Land Rover, but they certainly seemed to be the best funded and most knowledgeable of all bidders thus far.

    My question to everyone is, should Mahindra (or whomever), assume Saab as an entire entity (ie bring the operation back to life), would they accept warranties on 2010 and 2011 9-5s and 9-4x? I want a new 9-5 soooo bad!

    • “…several high ranking individuals don’t share our view.”

      Can you provide some links or proof of the differing views from these individuals?

  14. Isn’t it time for the people that accused VM of fraud and stealing money from Saab a couple of months ago to step forward and appologize? If there would have been any illegal activities by VM, I’m pretty sure the receivers and potential buyers would have noticed that by now…

  15. Mr. Muller was there for all of us when no one else was.
    I believe he has SAAB’s interest uppermost in what he does.

  16. VM was the person who got into the whole supplier mess by delaying payments and trying to circumvent their restrictions by using Saab Parts. It might have been his decision or any other executive’s, but I am sure he knew about it and accepted it, the course of past action only suggests that. That’s why suppliers have every right to be sceptical – regardless of whether the journalist who wrote that has facts to back up the claim.

    • BTW, from the Chicago Tribune
      Twenty-five Saab dealers met with Saab Cars North America, a separate entity from the liquidated Swedish automaker, at last weekend’s NADA conference to discuss distributing Saab parts and selling the remaining 2,900 cars in dealer and Saab N.A. stock. Automotive News reports the dealers have appealed to GM to cover warranties on 2010 and 2011 models — GM only covers Saabs through 2009 — to no avail, and remaining cars are now selling for 35% to 50% off MSRP.

      • International Motors Saab in Falls Church, VA is selling them for 30% off sticker and they have found a warranty company to write extended warranties (additional charge of course). I don’t know what kind of stock they have left—-but on a $40,000 Saab, right off the bat, their discount takes it down to $28,000. Let’s say the extended warranty is around $1800.—–that means you get a really good car, with warranty, for under 30K.

  17. As long as Saab stays swedish i’ll keep driving them, but no offence, i’m not ever going to own a turkish car, nor a Chinese or russian.

  18. Haha, nothing to do with politics or one ore the other religion, but it has more to do with the image of scandinavian products. Cool, not arrogant( like Mercedes), inovative, clean, and great design. Just that saabish feeling you get when you’re driving one. And i don’t get on à camel, or in à lada or maybe in a bejing gti mandarin. Just my opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

    • Maybe (or maybe not) a SAAB built elsewhere will be the best chance to get that “saabish feeling” if production doesn’t resume in Sweden. If production doesn’t resume in Sweden, will production elsewhere be true to SAAB engineering/design in a way that results in a car that feels like a SAAB to us?
      This is what I am waiting to find out.

  19. Better safe than sorry. I’m a Turk who owns two beautiful Saabs in a Scandinavian country and I’d be obviously more than glad to see that Saab being supported by my country. Because of country’s experience in car industry, I bet Saab would became a major competitor in 5 or 10 years again. But, Turkey is looking forward to build its own brand from scratch. Some Turks say “let’s save Saab and get experience” which is not a bad idea, and, trust me it wouldn’t be a “hit and run” thing since the country wants to reliable in this industry. I’m not here to collect sympathy for my country or myself. I just want to express my views as a Saab owner and a Turk.

    I hope the Saab problem will be solved as soon as possible. Have a good day Saab people.

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