Meet Victor Muller, 50, the new owner of Saab. The founder of Spyker Cars is tall, fit, fashion-conscious, outspoken, and, quite obviously, rather rich.
"In 2008, our ex-Jordan F1 team hit rock bottom and I quit top-league racing. In 2009, I tried to acquire Brawn GP and failed. But then the opportunity arose to purchase Saab. When the proposed deal with Koenigsegg fell through, I stepped in," he says.
Initially, General Motors was hesitant on the deal because Muller was sponsored by Vladimir Antonov, a somewhat mysterious 35 year-old Russian magnate and Spyker owner. But when Muller founded -- with Antonov's money -- an interim holding company, all was suddenly fine for GM to sell off the company for a paltry $75 million. To put that sum in perspective, consider that Saab's brand new wind tunnel alone is worth three times as much. Also included in the package are a refurbished factory, a working research and development department, the paid brand-new 9-5 (sedan and combi-coupe), access to the GM parts bin until 2024 and a 400 million Euro loan guaranteed by the Swedish government. Not bad for a bloke who lost money on every one of the 250 Spyker sports cars built so far.
Muller hosts the press conference wearing an off-white linen suit and a striped designer shirt with the top four buttons undone. His sole topic is "the perfect storm" which drove Saab into liquidation by January 8, 2010. Less than two months later, Vic had his deal. Eight minutes after he had proposed to Bob Lutz to commence formal take-over talks, the car czar from motown mailed back: "Wonderful that you are interested." Now that fresh money has begun to flow, the Muller-Antonov show is keeping the 3300 workers busy to increase the inventory from 5000 to 15,000 vehicles. There is no doubt about it: after a long dark depressing winter, the spirits are flying high again in Trollhättan.
"Not a single member of the top management team has defected during the crisis," claims CEO Jan Ake Jonson, adding: "And we have only lost a handful of dealers. The company is back in gear with a new business plan, the old 9-5 has been sold to Bejing Automotive, cooperation talks are under way for the proposed new small car, and we are about to create 200 fresh jobs. Believe me: the 9-5 is only the beginning. Saab has the potential to grow beyond GM's wildest dreams..."