GM have given an initial response to Spyker’s $3billion lawsuit and in doing so, have pretty much confirmed what many of us might have thought.
You might remember back in 2009, when Saab were being sold, that GM withdrew from negotiations at one point, supposedly because of concerns with Vladimir Antonov being part of the Spyker bid.
Shortly thereafter, Vladimir Antonov left the Spyker group and Spyker re-submitted their bid, one that they stated met GM’s needs completely. There was no reason not to proceed with the sale. The price had been agreed, their concerns had been met. And yet, GM still called negotiations off and placed Saab in liquidation just before Christmas (a move that was not only completely unnecessary, but one that made the job of re-starting Saab that much harder in 2010). Thankfully, Spyker didn’t give up and the spotlight was on GM to find a way to get some sort of return for one of the four brands the government forced them to either sell or close as part of their bailout.
Fast forward to 2011 and once again, Saab is in trouble. GM have a decision to make and Spyker claim to have submitted a proposal to them that would safeguard their concerns and satisfy any objections they might have.
That deal was to save the Saab company and get Youngman in as an investor.
GM played hardball, saying that they had to protect the interests of their shareholders and that they wouldn’t allow Saab to continue producing the 9-5 and 9-4x if the deal progressed. Those statements pretty much scuppered the deal; Youngman got cold feet, pulled out and forced Saab into bankruptcy.
GM’s objections, based on protecting shareholder value, could have only been based on either protection of IP or protection from competition.
Protection from competition is a joke. Saab would never have been a competitive threat to GM.
Spyker’s deal would have quarantined GM’s intellectual property whilst bringing Youngman in to finance the ongoing development of the Phoenix platform. As soon as Saab didn’t need GM’s technology anymore, they would have jettisoned it safe from competitive eyes.
GM’s words in response to Spyker’s claims are telling. From Reuters:
In its response on Friday, GM dismissed the idea that its technology would not be shared with the other investors under the proposed Spyker deal.
“Putting aside whether this argument is factually wrong, it misses the point,” GM said, adding that it had the right to terminate its technology license and supply agreements with Saab if there was a change in control of Saab with[out] GM’s prior consent.
“This right was clear and absolute, and did not depend on how GM’s technology purportedly was being handled,” GM said.
GM’s technology could indeed have been quarantined and they know it. Just because Youngman could walk into a factory and see a Saab being built does not mean they could replicate it. That requires a level of information and expertise that definitely could have been protected.
But that’s not the important bit here.
In GM’s own words, they had the right to terminate irrespective of how their technology might be protected. They claim that that right was clear and absolute and they would have exercised it – simply because they could.
They wanted Saab off their desk and this was how they could do it. Pure and simple. It had nothing to do with shareholder value, but everything to do with convenience.
There are rights, and then there’s doing what’s right.
Personally speaking, I don’t think Spyker are going to be successful with their lawsuit. I hope they are, but I don’t think they will be. As a Saab fan and former employee, I’m just glad we’re getting a brief glimpse into the hive-mind of GM, a chance to see the lies from that time exposed for what they were – needless fear-mongering.