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11th Hour Saab Bid: Deadline Extended

In an engaging act of brinksmanship, tiny Dutch supercar maker Spyker Cars is attempting to resurrect its highly leveraged bid for the Swedish automaker. Initially, it issued a close-of-business Monday deadline for General Motors to respond, but then backed down and extended its offer indefinitely.

GM Vice President of Communications Christopher Preuss was terse when I reached him via email. "There is no update at this point," he said. On Sunday morning, the company said, "Following Friday's announcement that GM will begin the orderly wind down of Saab, GM has received inquiries from several parties. We will evaluate each inquiry." On its media website, the company says, "We will not comment further until these evaluations have been completed."

On Friday, John Smith, a GM vice president of corporate planning and alliances, said the company had investigated Spyker's bid in great detail. "They worked hard, the GM team worked hard, but we just couldn't make a match," he said. Some 3,400 employees face layoffs, and 1,100 dealerships could be closed.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller said in his own statement that he is "confident" that his renewed bid resolves the "impasse" GM said it had reached last Friday and would allow a deal to be concluded by GM's December 31 deadline. It claimed the support of Saab's board. Among the new features of the 11-point proposal it hopes will bring GM back to the table is elimination of the need for year-end European Investment Bank loan approval. "Our efforts are based on our passion for saving an iconic brand that we would be honored to shepherd, and the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of loyal Saab employees, suppliers and dealers around the world," Muller said.

One of the sticking points that may not be resolvable is the Russian money in the deal. Spyker's largest investor is the colorful Convers Group, a Russian bank controlled by the flamboyant and youthful (34) Alexander Antonov (who was shot several times in Moscow last March). According to the New York Times, Spyker borrowed $16.6 million earlier this year from Lithuania-based Bank Snoras, which is also an Antonov-controlled property.

Muller has a never-say-die attitude. "Our company motor is 'Nulla tenaci invia est via': for the tenacious, no road is impassable. And we intend to remain true to that throughout these negotiations as we bid to secure Saab's future and revive the company."

Saab had been set to introduce a revamped (and desperately needed) 9-5 model in April, but that car will be stillborn--or possibly sold off--if Spyker can't make a deal. Nothing more is likely today, because Spyker backed away from its 5 p.m. EST deadline. "We wanted to give GM more time to assess the proposal," said Muller.

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