It was exactly a year ago today that I wrote an entry entitled GM will close the Saab brand.
- Saab Sale Cannot Be Concluded
- Brand to be Wound Down
Detroit. General Motors announced today that the intended sale of Saab Automobile AB would not be concluded. After the withdrawal of Koenigsegg Group AB last month, GM had been in discussions with Spyker Cars about its interest in acquiring Saab. During the due diligence, certain issues arose that both parties believe could not be resolved. As a result, GM will start an orderly wind-down of Saab operations.
“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time. In order to maintain operations, Saab needed a quick resolution,” said GM Europe President Nick Reilly. “We regret that we were not able to complete this transaction with Spyker Cars. We will work closely with the Saab organization to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner. This is not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process. Consequently, we expect Saab to satisfy debts including supplier payments, and to wind down production and the distribution channel in an orderly manner while looking after our customers.”
It was black day and seemed like the end to what had been a 12-month roller-coaster ride.
Of course, it was not to be. Spyker persisted. Saab were sold and here we stand today with Saab designing, producing and selling new cars as an independent company.
I think just this once, on this one-year anniversary, that it’s worth remembering where Saab have come from. Accordingly, I asked a few people what they remember from December 18, 2009.
Their answers are below, as is my own.
Victor Muller – CEO, Spyker Cars, who was trying to buy a car company at the time….
It was hell. I got the message from Scott Mackie (from GM) late on the 17th that the deal was off and on the 18th, we had what looked like a complete collapse. Earlier on the 17th, everything was cruising along OK and we were very close to closing the deal. Then I got the call, with them saying they’d hit a road block and were going to close the company down.
I was livid. I was in total disbelief. I made as many calls as I could just to try and understand what was happening.
The next day, on the 18th, I was at Schipol airport waiting to fly to Stockholm because we were going to close the deal in Stockholm. GM were saying “were going to issue the press release today saying we’re closing things down” and I had to tell them “don’t you dare do anything before I get there.” That flight was the longest two hour flight of my life.
Of course the press release was written. Later that day, Jan-Ake went with the minister back to Trollhattan. I flew to London with Vladimir Antonov and all I remember is being completely and utterly wrecked. We’d had weeks of negotiations and hard work. We hadn’t slept. We just sat in the plane and looked at each other with hollow eyes.
After sleeping on it, I woke up the next morning and made some calls, basically saying that the only way to proceed would be to remove Vladimir from the team and he literally said to me “Whatever it takes”. This guy was a real hero, after going through what he went through that day, he just said “whatever it takes” so that the deal could be done.
That same day we revised our offer, removing all points of contention. It put a lot of pressure back on GM because there was a willing buyer still in the room, putting up everything that they wanted. If we were going to go down, it was only after having thrown absolutely everything at this.
The 17th December to the 7th January was a black time. Except for a small period on Christmas Day where I watched three hours of TV just to escape, I cannot remember a single good memory from that time.
Here we are, a year later. It was worth every sleepless night.
Jan-Ake Jonsson – President and CEO, Saab Automobile
I woke up in Stockholm as my mobile phone rang at 6.45 am. The day before was, as usual, late with work so I ignored the phone. 5 minutes later it rang again and I looked at it and the display said Nick Reilly (from GM Europe).
From there on it was a tough day, where the focus for me was around communication with all the people that had worked so hard for the success of Saab.
A tough day that I would like to forget.
Magnus Hansson – at that time, Global Product Manager, now Regional Director, Nordic.
Dec 18, 2009. A day I will never forget. Started out in eager anticipation as we were all looking forward to the sale of Saab finally being closed in Stockholm later in the afternoon. Exhausted after a long process but looking forward to a celebration, a Xmas break and then ready to go full speed after New Years with all the fun ahead of us.
In fact, we had planned a Friday evening year-end party with the Global Product team I was heading at that time. Little did we know just how much we would be needing the beers that night…..
When the news broke I was sitting together with Knut Simonsson (Director, Marketing) in his room and the two of us were bouncing new 9-5 launch ideas & pricing in great spirits (& creativity I might add). Obviously shock, disbelief, anger and then just an incredible emptiness. I felt the Saab spirit stronger than ever in the friendship we all enjoyed but after calming down, I guess all of us felt anger and a sense of unfair decisions & circumstances pulling the rug from beneath our feet.
It really was a lucky circumstance that we had decided to get together for a party that night as we certainly needed each others company that evening. Sharing with warmth all the fun times we had together and great stories on the brand, fun incidents, persons, cars, happenings and our careers. It really was mentally very final & definitive that night, and more as a very tired man seeing all the newspaper headlines the day after…..
On Sunday Knut called and said Spyker has a plan to get back in business and have not given up and that we have work to do in supporting them with due diligences and preparations. For the first day I was still kind of deflated and in the “Yeah right, this is really going to work….” mode but after another day I pulled myself together.
Seeing the dedication in the Spyker team and their commitment gave me back my energy, fighting spirit and revved me up again to do absolutely everything I could, and everything we as a team could do to support Jan Åke, Victor and Spyker again.
One incredible year later here we are with the first “normal” year since 2007 from start to finish ahead of us, brimming with opportunities to recreate and build up the new Saab!
And me, Swade, your Saab blogger.
I can’t remember much about the actual moment. Whilst it was the 18th in Sweden, it was 2am on the 19th when I covered that press release here, and I remember being pretty groggy at the time, then pretty mad as I listened in on a conference call held by GM.
I actually had a call scheduled with Victor Muller for later in the morning and that’s my enduring memory from this time. Victor was indeed as mad as hell. We spoke for around 40 minutes and the thing I remember about that conversation was the enduring feeling that the fight wasn’t over yet.
I had a four-hour drive later that morning for a family holiday but before I left I wrote the following:
There’s plenty to write about this whole situation, but that’s a long drive away from being done. The one thing I will say is that THE FAT LADY HASN’T SUNG ON THIS COMPANY. She’s in the warm-up room, but she’s not on stage just yet.
What a crazy time. Perhaps I was blessed that it all happened while I was supposed to be sleeping (not that I slept much, but still….)