Legal Snippets (the “sue ’em” edition)

Vladimir AntonovBeherman, the former Dutch importer of Saab, have decided to take GM to court. AutoWeek.nl writes (if my google translation is anything to go by) that one reason could be GM’s refusal to let Spyker partner up with Youngman. GM’s last-minute refusal came at a point where there were no alternatives left.
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That lawsuit is probably going to be a long shot, but maybe a recent interview with Carl-Peter Forster might help their case. “Jesus! GM had not invested in Saab’s product line for twelve years. When I started in 2005, I said: We must invest two billion dollars very soon. We have to make four new models.” Then the financial crisis hit in 2008. “It was very frustrating. We started investing too late.”.
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Finally, Vladimir Antonov faced a setback earlier today as a British judge decided to extradite Antonov to Lithuanian authorities. Antonov’s lawyer indicates that he is going to appeal the ruling.

h/t Thomas, Paul and others.

Spykers Case Against GM Dismissed

Spyker’s US$3bln lawsuit accusing General Motors of trying to bankrupt SAAB has been dismissed by a US federal court judge who said GM had the right to block the sale of a company using its technology.

This quote was everywhere yesterday and was not too surprising. Some of us thought there was a case when looking at the big picture but the US District Court Judge Gershwin Drain looking at everything before him ruled otherwise and granted the motion to dismiss the matter.

General Motors had a contractual right to approve or disapprove the proposed transaction.

He also stated that the deal Spyker had reached to purchase Saab had given GM the right to stop changes in ownership and that GM’s statements voicing its opposition to the Youngman deal were not made with malice or to intentionally harm Saab.

GM’s lawyer, Kathryn Kirmayer, called Spyker’s deal with Youngman where they would eventually take a 70% ownership in Saab, “sketchy in many respects”.

Spyker’s lawyer Ben Chew, had said that Spyker and Youngman had reached the framework of a deal that would have allowed the assembly of Saab vehicles without the use of GM technology and platforms. They had also agreed to loan Saab 200m Euro which would have kept the company moving.

Spyker has not said if it will appeal the decision and at this point with everything that has happened, it’s hard to say what the right move would be. Reuters had spoke to Victor Muller who said “we will be awaiting the written order and then we will assess”.

It is very hard to look at things from where most of us sit and think that GM’s actions and words were not made to intentionally harm Saab. It is beyond most of us to not think that it was very deliberate and direct. That all being said, if GM did in fact act within the agreement and within the laws that govern them, as crappy as their actions were….. maybe it is best to move on from this whole mess and focus on the future.

The future for Victor and Spyker looks to be promising with a beautiful new car set to be produced and a partnership that was formed through the Saab trials. For Saab/NEVS, we have not even scratched the surface of what they can be or where they are headed. We know now that turbo engines are not just the DNA of the past but will be a part of the future.

It may be time to forget about GM and look forward, I say forget as most will never forgive.

Does The Spyker Lawsuit Matter To Us?

The lawsuit against GM by Spyker may seem to many to have nothing to do with Saab or the new owners of our iconic brand and I agree. That being said, I don’t fully support that way of thinking. Saab as we knew it was forced into bankruptcy and if Spyker comes out on top or even is awarded a settlement, it sends a message to the auto giants that you can’t just strong arm your way through and kill a company just because.

When a small company like Spyker takes on a “powerhouse” (and I use that term very loosely) like GM, people tend to think that the case will go nowhere and that GM will walk away a winner. Victor Muller in quotes from Just Auto today has stated where his confidence comes from and why he has taken this lawsuit on.

“You can rest assured me being a lawyer and my attorneys being the most serious you can get, we would not have started this if we thought we could not win,” Muller told just-auto.“Why throw money into a black hole?

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GMs Troubles Are Just Beginning

Oh General Motors where have you gone? This week has been amusing to watch from the sidelines. When I worked at a GM store we were always the number one manufacturer in the world and there was a lot of pride and about as much arrogance to that. When would would have rally meetings they would always talk about our market share and where we out performed everyone and would point out different areas of concern. I remember one such meeting where the person presenting had expressed anger towards the fact that they saw a Toyota taxi and that it should be a GM. I get being frustrated but to just make a statement and offer no solution made no sense. As we have seen recently, this is GMs MO. Address a problem but do nothing to fix it or the wrong thing to fix it and bring more trouble forward.

Well this week has brought forward a boat load of trouble for GM. Let’s take a look into the week GM may wish to forget but just like everything else in there history, just acknowledging there are these problems will not fix them.

This week started with Spyker and former Saab boss Victor Muller bringing forward a US$3bn lawsuit claiming unlawful actions and driving Saab into bankruptcy. This must have been a great feeling for Victor, as one can remember the bankruptcy press conference where he was quite frank about the bankruptcy being GMs doing and the little hint of a smile when asked if he would pursue them legally. Anyone who wants to have an idea of how prepared Victor is, need read this article with Just Auto where Victor had this to say:

For his part, former Saab CEO, Victor Muller said: “Ever since we were forced to file for Saab’s bankruptcy in December of last year, we have worked relentlessly on the preparation for this lawsuit which seeks to compensate Spyker and Saab for the massive damages we have incurred as a result of GM’s unlawful actions.

“We owe it to our stakeholders and ourselves that justice is done and we will pursue this lawsuit with the same tenacity and perseverance we had when we tirelessly worked to save Saab, until GM destroyed those efforts and deliberately drove Saab Automobile into bankruptcy.”

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Youngman Considering Their Own Legal Action

Our favorite writer over at Just Auto, Simon Warburton, has posted a very interesting story today about Youngman looking at the possibility of filing their own suit against GM. What a crazy 24hrs this has been. Just yesterday Victor Muller through Spyker brought a 3 billion dollar lawsuit against GM for unlawful actions and now today there is this possible lawsuit to come forward from Youngman. It’s starting to look like a deck of cards falling in on General Motors and one that I think is rightfully deserved.

From the Just Auto article, Lars Holmqvist the former head of CLEPA says:

“Youngman is also thinking about suing GM,” Holmqvist told just-auto from Sweden. “I know that. They have not made up their minds and, of course, they would be encouraged by Victor Muller’s lawsuit.

“I have information. I know from people…they are looking into the possibility. It is obvious because they spent SEK550m…securing the rights to the new platform.”

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James Cain does it again

Today we were again faced with some statements from James Cain regarding GM and their stance towards the parties that are interested in Saab (from E24.se):

Our contact with Brightwell consisted only of several letters they sent with requests to start a discussion. We answered that we are not interested. It has never been any negotiations or discussions, he said.

TT: Why did you not agree to meet them?

– We stand by our policy not to sell technology licenses to a new owner for Saab.

TT: Not in any way?

– No.

TT: Typically in business, everything has a price tag.

– Not in this case, says James Cain.

TT: Can you describe why GM does not want to give Saab a chance to survive?

– They have had several chances to survive. The business has been in terrible shape for a long time. That’s why GM, when we had our own problems, decided to close down Saab. It was not GM’s fault that Saab decided to stop paying their suppliers and their employees.

To make it short: I do not believe that. As I stated before he is a spokesman and his job is to tell the press what he is told. But there are always some things that are handled in certain levels of the management that don’t give reports to the press department about what they are doing. It is as simple as that. So you can’t even blame Mr. Cain for not knowing about everything, he is dependent on the info he gets. But what I really don’t like is the tone he uses from time to time. Maybe it is because GM did not like Brightwell openly stating that they were in talks. Maybe it is because Zamier once said “of course we are not negotiating with their spokesman”. But there are still better, more professional ways of stating something than the way he did. If GM wants to keep things behind closed doors I can repect that but if you want to deny do it in a proper way.

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Statement from Brightwell to SU

Recently we got in contact with Zamier Ahmed who lead the team that was dealing with the acquisition of Saab. Here is the statement we got from him just a few minutes ago:

It is with great regret that we must inform you that we have withdrawn from the race for Saab. GM’s intransigence to cooperate and forge a relationship to revive Saab and additionally create revenue for GM was “not in the interests of its shareholders”. We remain bemused, shocked and above all disappointed that we could not join the Saab family.
We hope that Saab finds a home where its new owner will sustain the company’s heritage as we planned to.

Thanks for your efforts to Zamier and the rest of the Brightwell team.

While I personally find it pretty sad that they had to withdraw their application without even placing their final bid I guess that it lies in the nature of the process that we have to say goodbye to some parties sooner or later and so I’d still like to draw your attention to my recent post.

Decision Week – Continued

This is the morning after here in central Europe. I did not get too much sleep as I have been chatting with people from different time zones until I literally fell asleep besides my MacBook. The renewed “no” from GM has been a hard hit for Saab and all who are close. We’re surely in high danger of running out of time but still, this does not have to be the end for our tiny Swedish carmaker. Rest assured that Victor is still pushing to explore all opportunities excluding giving up.

The biggest problem right now is time. Reconstruction is in a critical phase. Fresh funding is badly needed to pay salaries and to fund the company for the next few weeks. This would be Youngman’s part and I am not really sure if they don’t want to take the risk of investing even more or if they have certain restrictions from for example NDRC not to put more money in until a successful deal is reached. The fact that they continue to work on a solution and that they are obviously willing to step back in their share shows that they are pretty dedicated to getting a deal done.

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