BMW's sudden sale of Land Rover to Ford and Rover Cars to venture capitalists Alchemy Partners raises dozens of questions raises dozens of questions about the future of each of the firms. Many won't be answered right away, but here are the crucial facts behind one of the strangest episodes in recent automotive history.
Who is Jon Moulton (right)?
Venture capitalist whose cocky attitude was captured in one press photograph that showed him with his long legs propped on his desk, the soles of his feet pointed at the camera lens. He previously oversaw the purchase of the Fatty Arbuckles restaurant chain, Parker Pens and the Fads home improvement chain in Britain. Earlier in his career he participated in failed buyouts of Lotus and Land Rover. Moulton founded Alchemy Partners, the venture capital firm that is hoping to take Rover, MG and Rover's Longbridge factory off BMW's hands. Backers of Alchemy include Chase Manhattan Bank, the British Aerospace Pension Fund and Goldman Sachs.
Who is Chris Woodwark (below)?
The 53-year-old was named chairman of the MG Car Company, formed by London venture capital firm Alchemy Partners to take over what remains of Rover. Woodwark was hired to counter criticism that Alchemy Partners has no automotive experience. He started his auto industry career in 1964 with Chrysler UK. Woodwark joined Land Rover in 1971 and later became managing director of Land Rover-Leyland International Holdings. In 1989, he became director of Rover International. He left Rover in 1993, shortly before Rover's partnership with Honda dissolved and BMW stepped in. He then became chairman of Cosworth Engineering. He was made chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. in 1995.
Will another carmaker bid for Rover?
Not likely, given overcapacity in the industry, the shape Rover is in, the strong British pound, and the fact that all brand rights except Rover and MG stay with BMW.
Still, BMW said it would be open to suggestions.
Is Ford first in line to buy BMW if the Quandts sell?
BMW insiders say the talks with Ford over Land Rover are going very well. A positive experience could make it easier for the companies to seek each other out if BMW is put up for sale. However, GM is known to want both Land Rover and BMW, so nothing is guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang Reitzle, the ex-BMW executive who runs Ford's Premier Automotive Group, is still highly regarded by the Quandts. The family's respect for Reitzle was demonstrated by the speedy agreement that allowed him to join Ford just a few weeks after leaving BMW last year.
Will the Quandts sell?
Quandt spokesman Thomas Gauly says the family will hold onto its 46.6 percent BMW stake. That makes sense - at least until German corporate tax reform, expected within two years, sharply reduces the tax on the proceeds of a sale. But if the Quandts were to swap shares with Ford, for example, the transaction would not be taxed at all.
Which British brands is BMW keeping?
In addition to Rolls-Royce, which has no relation to Rover, BMW is keeping former Rover Group brands such as Austin, Triumph, Riley, Wolesley, and Standard.
Why didn't BMW sell other Rover Group brand names?
'We definitely want to keep them just in case we would want to expand our BMW group brand portfolio at some later time. These names are not for sale,' said BMW spokesman Jurg Dinner.
What is the BMW '2 series'?
The rights to R30 design (Rover 25/45 successor) will remain with BMW. Milberg said an engineering team is studying which components and concepts could be used for the new small BMW. The car has been called '2 series' by some, but BMW insists that the name isn't decided.
It is said to be a 'true BMW,' so a compact minivan concept like the Mercedes-Benz A-class or Audi A2 is unlikely. Milberg said it would be sporty, dynamic, agile and prestigious, fitting above the new Mini. A production site and launch plans for the 2 series haven't been announced.
When does Ford hope to close the Land Rover deal?
Sometime in the second quarter.
Will Land Rovers be sold with other Premier Automotive Group brands?
Jaguar was particularly delighted with the Land Rover announcement. The two British makes, which used to be sister brands in the British Leyland days, fit well together. Said Jaguar sales and marketing chief Roger Putnam: 'I guess if there was one car that sits on the driveway of more Jaguar owners than any other, it would have to be Range Rover.'
What is next in the Land Rover pipeline?
The next Range Rover was due to arrive in 2002, and was supposed to move upmarket into the A75,000-plus range. The car was to be powered by a BMW V-8 with a top-of the-line BMW V-12 in the works. The plan may even have called for the new Range Rover to share a floorpan with the BMW X5. The next Discovery is due in 2003, Defender probably in 2003, and Freelander in 2004. Ford has not said what it will do with Land Rover's lineup if the deal is approved.
What happens to the Rover 75 (right)?
The 75 sedan was to have led the rebirth of Rover. But production was delayed as BMW worked to get quality levels up at the Oxford plant. So sales started slowly and have been disappointing since the car was introduced last summer. The car will continue to be made for Alchemy's MG Car Company at Oxford by BMW. Alchemy has not said whether the car will be rebadged an MG 75, nor has it said anything about designing a next-generation 75.
Any clashes between Land Rover and Ford products?
The newly announced Ford Maverick, known as Escape in North America, and its Mazda Tribute twin could compete against the Land Rover Freelander in the small sport-utility class.
How will Premier brand volumes grow in three to five years from 1999 levels?
Aston Martin - 700 growing to nearly 3,000
Jaguar - 80,000 growing to 200,000 by 2002
Land Rover - 178,000 with capacity for 250,000
Lincoln - 190,000 including cars and trucks
Volvo - 411,000 growing to 600,000.
Why were BMW board members (above, L to R) Wolfgang Ziebart, Henrich Heitmann and Carl-Peter Forster fired? Some insiders say the three wanted BMW to close Rover rather than hand it over to an unknown investor. They felt that would have been less damaging to BMW's image than doing it Milberg's way.
What happens to Rover Chairman Werner Samann?
He will continue to run Rover, which is expected to remain under BMW control until about mid-year. His next job is unknown, but BMW sources say that if he was going to be fired it would have happened already.
Who are Burkhard Goeschel and Norbert Reithofer, the new BMW board members?
Both have close ties to Chairman Joachim Milberg. Reithofer, 44, head of production, was an assistant to Milberg at Munich Technical University from 1984-1987 while Milberg was a professor there. Reithofer wrote his doctor's thesis while working as a lecturer under Milberg.
Later he was technical director at BMW's South Africa plant, where departed production boss Carl-Peter Forster was his boss. He was next president of BMW Manufacturing Corp. in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and was instrumental in the ramp-up of the X5.
Goeschel, above, 54, was responsible for the products built in Spartanburg - the Z3 and later the X5 - as Director of Special Models Series. From 1989-1992 he was director of motorcycle development.
Where will BMW build the new Mini?
BMW has stopped production work on the Mini line at Longbridge and will transfer it to Oxford.
Will BMW keep any factories in the UK?
Yes, the newly refurbished factory in Oxford, the engine line at Longbridge, the Hams Hall engine plant opening later this year, and possibly the Swindon stamping plant.