* Spyker says GM wanted to eliminate potential rival in
* GM calls lawsuit "without merit"
* Spyker CEO says GM "had it coming"
By Sara Webb and Anthony Deutsch
AMSTERDAM, Aug 6 Dutch sportscar maker Spyker NV
is suing General Motors Co for more than $3
billion on behalf of its subsidiary Saab, accusing the U.S.
automaker of deliberately bankrupting the Swedish group by
blocking a deal with a Chinese investor.
Saab Automobile, one of Sweden's best-known brands, stopped
production in May 2011 when it could no longer pay suppliers and
employees. It went bust in December, less than two years after
GM sold it to Spyker. GM's efforts to kill any sale were made to
eliminate a potential rival in China, Spyker said.
"GM never intended to allow Saab to compete with it in
China," Spyker said in its complaint, filed in the United States
District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.
"When Saab found a way to secure liquidity and continue as a
going concern with the help of Chinese investors, GM was
determined to scuttle the deal by any means necessary, including
the publication of false information about its rights under the
parties' contracts," Spyker added.
GM spokesman Dave Roman called the lawsuit "without merit."
"We will vigorously defend the company against these baseless
allegations," he said.
Spyker Chief Executive Victor Muller said GM "had it coming"
with regard to the lawsuit.
"They never thought we would survive," he told Reuters.
"Well, Spyker's still here. They assumed Spyker would end up in
the graveyard with Saab, and obviously that didn't happen."
In asking for a jury trial, Spyker is seeking at least $3
billion in compensatory damages, as well as interest and
punitive damages, and legal fees.
"GM's actions had the direct and intended objective of
driving Saab Automobile into bankruptcy, a result of GM's ...
interfering with a transaction between Saab Automobile, Spyker
and Chinese investor Youngman that would have permitted Saab
Automobile to restructure and remain a solvent, going concern."
For months, Muller tried to pull off a rescue deal with
various Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese investors, including
China's Pang Da Automobile Trade Co Ltd and Zhejiang
Youngman Lotus Automobile Co.
He told reporters the $3 billion claim was based on what
Saab would have been worth if a deal with Chinese firm Zhejiang
Youngman Lotus Automobile Co, or Youngman, had gone ahead.
Spyker spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation
fees preparing the case over the past six months, Muller said.
Spyker's lawsuit was being funded by an anonymous third
party, who will share in any settlement, he said.
GM, which operates in China in a partnership with state-run
automaker SAIC Motor Corp Ltd, late last year
effectively blocked deals with two Chinese investors, Pang Da
Automobile Trade Co and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.
GM said it would stop supplying vehicles and technology to
Saab's new owners because it would run counter to the interests
of its own shareholders. Saab filed for bankruptcy months later
and stopped producing cars.
"GM created the appearance of initially encouraging Saab to
enter into a deal with Chinese investors to save the company,
only later to unlawfully pull the rug out from under Saab,
driving it into bankruptcy liquidation," Spyker said in the
"Indeed, it was GM's intent by whatever means necessary to
quash any financing or investment deal that could save Saab from
liquidation, because GM simply sought to eliminate Saab from
competition, particularly in the Chinese automobile market," the
Spyker charged GM with interfering in a prospective deal
with the Chinese companies by claiming it would no longer
license its technology to or build cars for Saab even though the
last agreement was structured to exclude the U.S. automaker's
intellectual property, according to the lawsuit.
Saab had created its own vehicle platform that did not use
any GM technology, so GM's statements that it would not support
a deal were "intentionally false" because such support was not
needed, Spyker said in the lawsuit. Spyker also said in the
lawsuit that the agreement for GM to supply parts and build the
Saab 9-4X SUV ran through 2014 and was not subject to
termination "for convenience" by either company.
Saab, which had been making cars since 1947 and built a
small, loyal following, was declared insolvent with debts of
about 13 billion Swedish crowns ($1.93 billion), around 2.2
billion of which is owed to the Swedish Debt Office.
GM bought 50 percent of Saab in 1990 and the rest 10 years
later. It decided to sell the brand in 2009 after the financial
crisis and came close to closing it before Swedish Automobile,
then called Spyker Cars, bought Saab in January 2010.
Despite its well-known name, Saab was a niche player whose
future had been questioned by analysts. Saab was profitable in
only one of the 19 years GM owned it, executives with the
Detroit automaker have said.
Following Saab's bankruptcy, Sweden's bankruptcy
administrators said they had chosen a consortium called National
Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) AB to buy Saab for an undisclosed
sum. Muller said that deal was between the receivers and NEVS.