Short interview with Victor Muller from Spyker

Victor Muller has done a short interview in the last few days with the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
It’s in the paper version only, but thankfully Albert has been kind enough to do a translation for us (and after a very long and hard day at work, too)
Many thanks, Albert, and please enjoy the reading.
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Spyker-topman Muller: If this deal isn’t happening, Saab is finished.
Thursday, December 17, 2009 by Niek Schenk
Small sportscar builder must profit from Saab know how.
Stockholm. Victor Muller the top executive of Spyker, reveals to the AD for the first time his plans with Saab. “You must compare this with Lamborghini and Audi. They both belong to the VW-group and share a lot of things.”
Those two are the great examples, so he tells us from Stockholm, where he is negotiating with the GM and Saab top about the take-over.
Muller: “Saab and Spyker will remain independent companies, but Saab has a lot of technology from which Spyker can profit. They have for instance a formidable 4×4 technique, that we can use in our models. In this way there are a hundred things to share.”
Muller is furious about the allegation that with the take-over he would be after the 400 million Euros support that the EIB has promised.
“That is rubbish (he uses the word “apekool”, which is much stronger than rubbish), I never heard something more stupid before” he rumbles. That is a loan about which four government bodies have to decide. And the money may only be put in Saab. Spyker does not get a single penny of it.
Maarten van der Plas, author of the book “Spyker, een dollemansrit” made that allegation yesterday in an interview on the Dutch radio channel 1.
“That man has absolutely no sense of this at all”
Yet the Spyker top-executive can understand that there is great amazement over the fact that the tiny Spyker wants to take over the relatively big Saab.
“Those two companies compare to each other like a fly to an elephant. But Spyker can do this deal with ease, otherwise I would consider it at all. And otherwise the GM-top would not believe in it either. After all, it is not without reason that GM only wants to talk with us about the Saab takeover. Saab may be a thousand times bigger than Spyker, but we can profit from each other in a big way. That’s what we both believe.”
About the financing, nobody needs to worry, says Muller, who has the back up of the Russians bankers since a few years. “I always earned my money with strong deals, so that has to happen now too.”
According to Muller the false impression is made that it is very bad with Saab.
“I read that Saab has made a loss for over twenty years. What a nonsense. Almost nobody knows the exact figures of Saab, because the brand is heavily intertwined in the GM organization. I know those numbers now and Saab is not in such a bad situation. Yes, the last few years perhaps, thing didn’t go well. But that was also because Saab could hardly operate independently within the GM organization. Most Saabs were not even built in Sweden, but at Opel or Magna in other European countries. In the USA Saab could not even sell its own cars”
Muller could not tell whether the deal was almost closed.
“We are still dependent on government bodies that have to approve. But GM wants to cut the knot at the end of this month at the latest, that’s for sure. The pressure on this negotiations is extremely high. If this deal does not succeed, it is over with Saab.”
——
Hmmmm.
Well. If that’s what he said (the Opel bit) then that’s what he said.
Other than that, it’s really very good to hear from Mr Muller again and listen to some of his own thoughts about Saab.

Reuters are acting like idiots, leading others to same

I’m getting quite antsy about the way Reuters is reporting the progress on the Saab deal. Earlier this week I had to post a correction to a misrepresented story from Reuters on BAIC carving Saab up into a whole bunch of little pieces.
Today, they’ve once again managed to take one story, add a sprinkling of it to another story and make 2 + 2 equal whatevertheyfreakingwellwant. What’s worse is that others are reading it and doing the same.
So what happened?
Yesterday morning in Sweden (well, it’s yesterday for me), Joran Hagglund came out and urged GM to make a decision this week on a preferred Saab bidder. He made this statement because of all the work that’s involved in reviewing the bidder and ensuring that the sale can go through.
Reuters have taken this story and seem to have implied that there’s a new deadline for the Saab sale. There’s no new deadline. GM will make a decision by December 31st. That’s the only deadline in play and Spyker etc are all well aware of it. Hagglund’s comment was an advisory one only, it was not any sort of new deadline.
Still, in light of Hagglund’s comment, Reuters went ahead and contacted Spyker and asked how things are going:

“They’re not aware of any deadline,” the Spyker spokesman said Thursday, adding that the company’s interest was unchanged.

Want more?

Saab also said there was no deadline, but that all sides would need to move quickly to make a deal this year.

So now Reuters claim that Saab are wandering around, blissfully unaware of a deadline for the sale? Seriously?! Methinks they might have omitted the word ‘changed’ somewhere in there. Maybe it was in the question, but not mentioned in the very quotable answers?
Reuters were happy enough with the answers they received to post them in the headline:
ReutersCrap.JPG
And of course, where Reuters go, others are willing to follow. Here’s Jonny ‘key-between-the-seats’ Lieberman at Autoblog:

The catch is that if GM and the prospective buyer can’t get the deal done by 2010, General Motors is just going to wash its hands of the perennial money loser and shut Saab down and sell off its assets. However, if the talks are going well but no deal has been reached by January, GM might consider funding Saab a little longer. Maybe. For their part, Spyker seems unaware of any looming deadline, though perhaps they should be.

Are they asking the right people? Are they asking the right questions? Are they reporting all of it accurately?
For what it’s worth, I can tell you that I’ve had contact with Victor Muller from Spyker already. I made contact with him on December 4, a couple of days after Spyker announced their interest in Saab. I’ve not written about that contact here because right now there is nothing to tell. He is not in a position to provide an interview on the site as Spyker are subject to non-disclosure agreements and….well….. I guess you could say he’s pretty busy right now.
But I can assure you from the brief exchange we’ve had that he’s acutely aware of the timeline here:

The deadline GM set is no loose threat. It is for real.

Reuters should lift their game.

Victor Muller – Sweet talker

Trust Dan Niel of the LA Times to get the money quotes from Spyker’s Victor Muller, about his bid to purchase Saab from General Motors.
Here is Mr Muller saying all the nice things we Saabisti long for:
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White knight?

“I thought, this cannot be,” the 6-foot-4-inch, fair-haired Muller said Thursday, at the Spyker stand at the L.A. Auto Show. “It’s such a beautiful company.”

Kinsman?

“It’s true, we [the Netherlands and Sweden] are small northern countries. We don’t have big German conglomerates to help us out. I just felt like we have to stand together because we’re the same people, we have the same DNA.”

Purist?

“It’s a lovely brand. It’s so authentic, and that’s such a rare thing.”…….”As a matter of principle. The only truly authentic thing about a brand is provenance. The [Porsche] Boxster is built in Finland, OK, no problem. But could they be built in Mumbai? Sure, they’d be 20% cheaper but nobody would buy it.”

——
He’s definitely speaking the language.
But can he get a transaction done in a timeframe that would suit GM, having only put in a submission on Monday?
Will they need EIB loans and do they plan to follow Saab’s existing business plan?
Are there any motives lurking behind all these fair-sounding words?
This is all so quick and there is so much we just. don’t. know.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller

Yesterday I posted a piece on Spyker and it would be fair to say that it didn’t cast the group in a favourable light.
It was the result of the research I was able to do, which wasn’t exhaustive as I have a day job, etc. I was pretty happy with the honesty of it, however, and I was (an remain) happy to get more information and leave the door open to learning more about Spyker and the various players.
One of the chief players in this group is Spyker CEO, Victor Muller.
“Ivo” has been kind enough to do a bit of background work on Mr Muller and posted the results in comments and this is one of those times when a comment compels me to post to the front page.
Consider this as a balance to my initial piece on Spyker. I’ve added some edits as per a follow-up comment by Ivo.

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It may not turn out to be that bad a match. Victor Muller is not at all some phantasist or builder of fatamorganas. He does know how to turn around and manage a serious business and make money out of it.
VictorMuller.jpg The guy holds a (probably business) law degree from the best university in the Netherlands, at Leiden, and had been practising it with a prominent law firm for some 5 years before becoming Head of Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions at Heerema, the big offshore engineering company, at the age of just 30. And believe me, they aren’t crazy at Heerema, I have had dealings with them professionally and know what I’m talking about, so Muller really must have been some kind of boy genius to achieve that position at that age.
After that he was one of those involved with the management buyout of a well-known Dutch ocean salvage and towing company Wijsmuller with HQ at Ijmuiden. Having -presumably- cashed in on his share, he then proceeded to become the CEO of the internationally active McGregor Fashion group. All these businesses are doing well. Muller probably made a serious killing when McGregor went to the stock exchange.
While he may not have enough funds to buy Saab outright by himself, he may well have exactly what it takes to turn Saab around and make it healthy again. Okay, his backers may sound a bit dodgy but it seems that no business person in Russia is taken seriously unless an attempt has been made to kill or abduct him or her. The shooting doesn’t necessarily have to be mob-connected, it could well have been a kidnap or robbery attempt or something like that.
I don’t think we should pass judgment on Victor M solely on the basis of Spyker’s lacklustre business performance. Actually, he resigned as CEO in early 2007 following a falling-out with Spyker co-founder Maarten de Bruijn (the technical and design force behind the Spyker cars) and (probably) sold (most of) his Spyker holdings to Michiel Mol, one of those IT entrepreneurs (Lost Boys; just google it) who sold out before the bubble burst. spyker2006_1.jpg The latter was also the one who took over the Midland F1 team, renamed it Spyker F1 and then never stopped throwing good Spyker money into that success-less and bottomless pit. It should be noted, though, that Muller still supported this move in an interview earlier this year. That F1 venture, and the crisis of course, was what brought Spyker to the edge of the abyss.
Later in 2007, Muller became the CEO of Spyker again and -presumably- bought out Mol. And it was thanks to Muller’s business connections that Spyker didn’t fall into that abyss but is still hanging on. Yes, Spyker is probably a rich man’s playpen. But the sole fact that it still exists could be seen as a tribute to this guy. So, maybe it is the right person to rescue Saab. He is at least a true car enthousiast. Otherwise, while invest so much money, time and energy into something that will always remain a marginal -albeit decidedly nice to look at and fun to drive- footnote in automotive history?
Let’s give the guy a chance.

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