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GM needs to take Spyker lawsuit "seriously" say experts


Dutch car company Spyker is suing General Motors for three billion dollars over the bankruptcy of GM's former brand, Saab.

Spyker says GM illegally interfered with a sale of part of Saab, and claims it was that interference which caused Saab's bankruptcy. 

GM sold Saab to Spyker in 2010, with a stipulation that Spyker would have to obtain GM's permission to sell Saab to anyone else.

Spyker almost immediately ran into financial problems trying to keep Saab afloat.  

By the time Spyker found  Chinese investors willing to infuse cash into Saab in return for majority ownership of the company, Saab's factories were shut down, and suppliers - including General Motors - were not being paid.

Spyker says it constructed the failed deal in such a way as to protect GM's intellectual property. 

But GM threatened to block the sale in court, and the investors bailed on the deal.  The lawsuit says GM feared that a Chinese-owned Saab would be a new competitor in the company's largest car market - China.

GM says the lawsuit is completely without merit.

Doug Bernstein practices bankruptcy law at Plunkett Cooney. 

He says the lawsuit will be difficult for Spyker.

First the company has to prove GM didn't have the right to interfere with and prevent a sale of Saab. Then, the company has to prove that Saab would have survived -- and that it would have eventually made money if the sale did go through.

"Even if what they say is true," said Bernstein, "the economic expectation - good luck proving that."

John Pottow teaches bankruptcy law at the University of Michigan.  He's a little more impressed by the merits of Spyker's case.  He says the law firm handling the case is highly regarded.

He says the lawsuit is definitely not frivolous - and it could cost GM, even if GM prevails.

"This is something that could have a serious financial dent on the company," says Pottow.  "It may not drive them back into bankruptcy again, but this is something where their legal department is taking serious notice right now."


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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.