The Koenigsegg Group

Following yesterday’s news about the recent formation of the Koenigsegg Group (or, should I say, the application for this), there’s been some fruitful digging through the bowels of the internet to produce some background on the various players involved.
A lot of the hard yards have been made by Karen and she’s left a few links in comments, which I’ve followed up further.
The purpose of the exercise is to get a better grip on exactly who it is that’s using Koenigsegg’s enthusiast-friendly nameplate to purchase Saab.
The good news is that I think these people are going to go all out to make Saab profitable, because my initial impression is that not all of them are going in to this deal to stay as owners of Saab beyond around 5 years.
The not-so-good news is that IF this research is right (and I’m emphasising the IF for a reason), then at least one of these people is someone whose past associations could be characterised as ‘dubious’. Not Renco-level dubious, but it does make me wonder if he’ll stick around. As long as his money’s good, I guess.
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Christian Von Koenigsegg’s first ever company, called Aalpraz and formed back in 1992, will be the largest single shareholder, with a 42.5% stake in the new group.
Koenigsegg Automotive will also be a shareholder, with 23.5% of the new group. Incidentally, that makes Volvo a part owner, too, as Volvo hold a small number of shares in Koenigsegg that were given to them as payment for use of a wind tunnel. It’s a slight worry that they had to barter in this fashion, but maybe that’s just me.
These two ownership shares indicate that the man with the automotive brains in this group – Christian Von Koenigsegg – is going to have plenty at stake. To a large extent, his life’s work and family name is going to depend on making Saab successful. That’s a good motivator if you ask me.
Koenigsegg Automotive is 49% owned by Bard Eker’s Eker Group so the Norwegian has an ownership stake that way already. In addition, however, the Eker Group will also have a direct share of the new group in the order of around 12%.
I like Bard Eker and his way of thinking. I like him a lot. Maybe this stake is why he’s had to sell his ownership interests elsewhere in recent times. That would seem to indicate that he’s going to have a lot at stake here as well.
The final shareholder – with a 22% holding in the Koenigsegg Group – is the one we didn’t know much about: Mark Bishop. Karen’s done some great digging and we think we’ve found our man. We knew his name and previous mail coming in to me indicated that he was based in California. He was hard to find, but I’m quite sure Karen’s on the money here.
The Mark Bishop we’ve found does most of his business in the real estate world. He was previously a VP with a Wall Street firm of questionable repute called Drexel Burnham Lambert. They were junk bond kings in the 1980s and declared bankruptcy in 1990. That doesn’t mean he had anything to do with that, of course, and Drexel alumni include people like the late Steve Fossett and execs now with Goldman Sachs and Cerberus (who just nose-dived Chrysler into bankruptcy and FIAT’s open arms).
Further digging indicates links to sub-prime mortgages (never a good phrase in these economic times) and mortgage pool investments. The most recent info, which Karen dug up, is an investment scheme aiming to buy troubled assets. From there I found associations with companies called Liquiddium and ABS Investment Group, both of which look into buying distressed properties with a view to realising gains as the properties come back to their real values.
This would be a troubling record for me. In short, he sounds like one of the Wall St types that we should be kinda mad at for all this financial crisis stuff we’re stuck in right now. Making money on sub-prime on the one hand and making money when the sub-prime mortgage holder has to sell on the other. It’s probably great business sense, but unpalatable to me, personally.
I’ve tried to contact Liquiddium, but the emails bounced. Let’s hope his cheques are better.
NOTE: All of this is contingent on whether or not we have indeed found the right Mark Bishop. The name is right, as is the location and the background.
This one walks, talks and looks like a duck, but we could still be wrong.

A thought for Bard Eker…..

Robert Collin has called him a playboy adventurer and his purchase of Saab a joke.
Mickey Mouse thinks that we who belive in the purchase of Saab by Koenigsegg are wet-dreamers who should wake up.
And the Scandinavian media is so hot on Bard Eker’s tail that he shut up shop and refused to speak until ‘the proper time’.
If you thought people weren’t interested in Saab’s purchase story, think again…..

Bård Ekere are tired of the influx of media around the Saab-purchase.
Founder and owner Koeningsegg Bård Ekere races against the influx of media in connection with a possible purchase of Saab, writes FredrikBlad.
I noted that some media boils on previous statements, but I do not say anything about SAAB-issue now. FredrikBlad, and all other media will wait until the time has come, says Ekere to the newspaper.

Personally, I’m pleased he’s decided to stop talking. Technically, this decision is still up in the air until the owners of GM – the US government – give it the green light.
But more than that, though, I’d love to see the Koenigsegg group do things on their own terms rather than bow to the demands of the mainstream media.
You might think that shunning some of the media is a bad idea. This is a good-news story and it should be told – and it will. But I tend to think that Koenigsegg should take more control of their message.
This is something that Saab themselves have done in the last few months.
When they began this separation process, there was a whole section of the media that didn’t even believe that Saab could be sold. Some said that there was nothing worthwhile selling.
What did Saab do?
They decided to pick and choose who got the stories. That’s why some media outlets got a preview drive of the new Saab 9-5 and others didn’t.
Want to cover the Saab story fairly? Come on over and let’s talk!
Want to talk like this deal, and Saab itself, have absolutely no chance? You can watch while everyone else coveres the story from the source.
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This is probably a selfish philosophy on my part as I’ve got a vested interest in advocating this position.
See, I really think that no car company has taken full control of their communications in the way that the internet age could allow them to. This world that we live in has the potential to allow a company to connect directly with their customers in a way that few companies have tried before.
What we do here at SU and on other community-based sites is communicate a company’s message directly to the people who want to hear it.
You might think that’s a small audience. A number of people who buy a car might research it a little on the web beforehand, but few will continue on afterwards.
But with the interest that Saab will gain from the Koenigsegg connection, that number is going to grow. It’s the enthusiasts who hit the web and if Koenigsegg and Saab want to control their message, this is a way they can do it.

Robert Collin on Koenigsegg’s financiers

It’s fair to say that Robert Collin from Aftonbladet is not a fan of the idea of selling Saab to Koenigsegg.
The following is a Googletrans, tidied up as best as I was able, from an article in aftonbladet this weekend. Bits I couldn’t easily tidy up are in italics.
I think he’s asking similar questions to the ones we’ve asked here – who are Koenisegg’s financiers and what are their intentions? We tend to take it as given that they’ll follow the proposed business plan they’ve signed up to, but I think Collin is much more skeptical about either their intention or ability to do so (probably both).
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Koenigsegg is the Swedish facade in this proposal. And there is Bård Eker the Norwegian. Neither of them have the money needed to save Saab, but both are nice poster names.
Koenigsegg was needed to charm the Swedes and the Swedish government, Bård Eker to attract the money of Norwegian investors.
The Koenigsegg family is penniless after all the losses of the super sports car adventure. And Bård Eker, according to Reuters data, already lost 80 million (!) as he filled in Koenigsegg’s large black holes. And now his money has started running out.
[Eker] Has good contacts
But the adventurer and playboy Bård Eker has good contacts in the Norwegian upper classes, and has tied up four or five of the Norwegian financial families to buy Saab. According to Aftonbladet’s sources, one of them is one of Norway’s major car dealers.
Spokes has also received with a known American riskkapitalist on the train.
Eker, according to Aftonbladet, had confused the almost four billion that General Motors calls for Saab. And he ensures that the Group has further almost six billion to develop the next 9-3 model.
According to Aftonbladet’s sources, none of the financiers are in the automotive industry today.
Provides GM space
Why did General Motors choose this, quite otippade and untested purchasers in large players in the automotive industry or subcontractor?
The buyer gives the General Motors bigger space.
Why dispose of Fiat as quickly? Well, that Fiat would not have any future business with GM.
And why sell GM Opel to Magna and not Fiat?
For the same reason. Magna is one of the world’s largest suppliers, which GM wants to have continued business with. Therefore, GM also keep a stake around 30 percent of Opel. In order to control purchases.
The end may come quickly
Same thing in Saab affair. General Motors wants to continue to take a small part, perhaps around 20 percent, and you want an owner who continue to buy expensive technology components from GM.
General Motors has whittled this down to a buyer who is milking the money out. But it is for Saab’s best?
Hardly.
On the contrary, it can be devastating for Saab, to Trollhättan and the American automotive industry.
If Koenigsegg and Bård Eker are also thinking starting to use Saab themselves, as they said in various interviews, may be the end for the small car maker in Trollhättan be faster than quick.

Saab-Koenigsegg – so what do you think?

I know there’s been a lot of joy expressed and not a little caution about Koenigsegg’s emergence as the bidder that GM will continue to negotiate with.
I’ve been concentrating on posts that give a little more background about Koenigsegg so we can have an understanding that goes beyond cool cars. I’m especially interested in the guy who’s turning out to be the one in the spotlight – Bard Eker.
He’s the one who said it would be a dream to own Saab. He’s the guy who seems to have made a lot of the right moves in his career. But then he’s also the guy who questioned why Saab would need as many engineers as they have.
Is he a Norwegian Richard Branson or a guy who’ll end up in debt up to his eyeballs pursuing a fool’s errand?
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Saab have already received a massive kick in the grassroots media from the Koenigsegg decision. For every analyst who’s questioning the deal there are a thousand or more car fans who see it as a massive boost for Saab’s image.
That’s nice for now, but what will it mean, if anything, for the future?
I guess that will all depend on what Koenigsegg plan to do with Saab and how integrated the two become in the next year or so. It’ll take some time to see mechanical additions to the Saab lineup from this partnership, but there are things that can be done fairly quickly.
Marketing and PR are the most obvious areas where Saab can benefit straight away and I hope they are preparing to take maximum advantage of this – if and when the deal is done.
Business support is going to be a big issue as well and I hope Koenigsegg retain and recruit the right people where they need to. Saab have worked hard to survive already. Don’t forget that it wasn’t so long ago that production in Trollhattan was threatened and I’m sure that move would have been a substantive threat to Saab themselves.
They deserve an owner who’s going to maximise Saab’s strengths and benefit from them.
I hope Koenigsegg turn out to be an owner who can do that.
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Let’s call this the definitive thread for people’s thoughts on this deal.
Over all, I’m very excited about the potential for this partnership. I might be living in fairy land, but I believe that a smart, smaller car company can carve a niche if their products are right and their people are hardworking and intelligent. The last 18 months has shown us that bigger isn’t better. Hopefully the next 18 months can show that smarter is better.
And we know that Saab is full of smart people.
Whether you’re happy, worried, overjoyed or cautious about this arrangement, please let us know why in comments.

Bard Eker – background

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.
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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
Age: 47
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.
BARDEKER.jpg
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.
Major changes
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.
C31webfront3.jpg
-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.
ecinema splash.jpg Big loss
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.
Rich Racers
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.
Hardly Norwegian
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.
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Links:

Thanks again, Arild!

Bard Eker speaks about Saab

Another story breaks while I’m sleeping. I tell ya, I’m going to have to go into vampire mode…..
Bard Eker, the man who holds 49% of Koenigsegg and the main voice behind their bid for Saab, has done a brief interview with Dagbladet.no.
Here’s the Googletrans of some interesting bits. I think an open letter to Mr Eker might be in the pipeline. Let me just say this, quickly: I’m beginning to like this deal more and more, and it has little to do with the romance of the notion. I like this guy’s way of thinking.
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There have been some poisonous comments in the Swedish media. I want to make one thing quite clear, we are not buying Saab only to chop it up (sell bits and pieces, ed note). There is no such plan,” says co-owner of the car manufacturer Koenigsegg, Bård Ekere, to Dagbladet.
International attention
Thursday night SVT revealed that Koenigsegg, of which Eker owns 49 percent, with a number of Norwegian investors in the back, will move up as needed to take over kriserammede Saab stable and the 52-year-old Swedish pride is back. (note: that should be 62 years – SW)
Buyers will have signed a letter of intent with the U.S. owners General Motors (GM).
– We believe it is possible and that we have several good solutions to take with us into Saab, “says Ekere.
While his secretary has spent days on the phone to explain to the international media as the New York Times and Bloomberg that Ekere is not in the office, he takes the time to meet Dagbladet in Fredrikstad.
Next week
With the trademark and production, including in Trollhättan in Sweden, following a debt of 10.5 billion and 3400 employees. Negotiating an acquisition is now fully in Zurich.
– There have been many processes at once to get to purchase and there can still emerge some reefs in the sea,” says Ekere, which does not itself negative, to Saab’s own statement that a deal may already be in place next week.
Despite the financial crisis also allows them to feel in Scandinavia “there are many investors who want to be with” to finance the acquisition, says Ekere.
– But the amount of money and who are with us I will not say,” says Ekere, who has been heavily into the design since the last series Koenigsegg, CCX.
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What is the most important and Koenigsegg takes you more input as owners?
– Culture and technology. Saab must be more innovative, not given an A4 template, which is some what General Motors did. And Saab’s culture must be stronger, with the dealer, customers and the Trollhättan, that we and investors like to be a catalyst for, say car.
– Breakthrough technology
While Saab is not always linked to the “speed and power”, Koenigsegg is the world’s fastest-cars, with unique technology and design.
– I am sure we have some good solutions for Saab, with groundbreaking technology. And we do not take no for an answer when a new idea comes up.
– Is the investment in fuel cells and electric cars a possible scenario?
– Yes. No matter what part of the transport industry you work in, you have to think about the environment.
LabourStart
Ekere stressed that the agreements are not in place yet and that they are dependent on goodwill from all levels.
– We have had very good vid of sails since we started, but we may soon on a new level: When must the guys on the floor would be to invest. It keeps that a few will not, that the plans will go wrong, “says Ekere.
– Would you come to where you are now if the trade union movement was clearly negative?
– No, we would not like, but I want to say anything that could harm the negotiations now. Trade union movement in the Saab is important and will avoid any major dismissals. At the same time we live in a world where it happens.
– Will all the 3400 employees keep the job?
– It is not the intention to terminate many, but this I can not say more now.
Union emphasized today that three companies will take over Saab. He believes the media’s focus on that the parties have signed a declaration of intent has been exaggerated.
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Secret investors
Ekere will not comment on who the investors will buy the Saab is.
– I can not say. But I’ve been involved with the speculation in the newspapers and it has been fun, there has appeared a lot of things, “says Ekere.

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