Jaguar & Land Rover's Many Suitors

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 8/25/2007 02:09:00 PM
It all makes sense circa 2007 when you see the four high-profile parties lining up to buy the famous British auto brands of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. Although Ford has said that a decision on a sale is not immediately forthcoming, it is nonetheless entertaining serious bids. Despite recent liquidity concerns, it seems financial markets are calming down somewhat to enable private-equity players like TPG Capital, One Equity Partners, and Ripplewood Holdings to make serious runs at the English duo. What makes things interesting is that these private equity players have former Ford men in their teams. TPG has former Jaguar and Land Rover chief executive Bob Dover as an advisor; One Equity Partners has former Ford chief executive Jac Nasser--known to some as "Jac the Knife" for his cost-cutting ways; and Ripplewood has Sir Nick Scheele who was formerly COO and president of Ford. From the Daily Telegraph:

Another high-profile motor executive has joined the race to buy Jaguar and Land Rover, a move that will pit him against two ex-colleagues.

Industrialist Bob Dover, a veteran of the car manufacturing industry and former chief executive and chairman of Jaguar and Land Rover, has linked up with US buyout group TPG to bid for the luxury marques, thought to be worth £1bn to £1.5bn, say bankers close to the situation.

The move will put him in direct competition with Jac Nasser, Ford's chief executive from 1999 to 2001, who is working with the buyout group One Equity Partners on an offer, and Sir Nick Scheele, Ford's president and chief operating officer from 2001 to 2005, who has teamed up with Ripplewood Holdings to bid.

If TPG's bid for Jaguar and Land Rover is successful, Mr Dover is likely to have an operational role in the new company, although it is not clear whether TPG plans to install him as chief executive, banking sources said.

Investment bank UBS, which advised Ford on the disposal of Aston Martin, is advising TPG and Mr Dover.

Mr Dover's inside knowledge is likely to give TPG, one of the world's largest buyout groups, an edge.

During his career with Ford's premium brands group, Mr Dover was responsible for the introduction of Land Rover's Discovery, Jaguar's XK8 and XJ saloon, and Aston Martin's DB7 Vantage and Vanquish.

As well as One Equity Partners, TPG and Ripplewood, buyout group Cerberus, which earlier this year bought Chrysler for $7.4bn, and India's Tata Motors are also thought to be preparing second-round bids.

Meanwhile, Mahindra & Mahindra is rumoured to be in talks with Leon Black's buyout shop Apollo Management to submit a joint offer. When Mr Dover retired in 2003, Sir Nick Scheele was reported to have said: "Bob Dover has made an outstanding contribution to the three British-based brands. His extensive automotive experience, together with his knowledge of the premium vehicle business, made him a widely respected leader for Jaguar and Land Rover." This may come back to haunt him if his consortium is trumped by TPG and Mr Dover. TPG declined to comment.

And the fourth party? It's India's Tata Group. Call it a potentially welcome case of reverse colonization. From the Times of India:
Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata on Friday confirmed that his group was interested in acquiring European car brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor.

"We are certainly having an interest in it (Jaguar and Land Rover)," Tata told a news channel in an interview.

Asked about the details, he, however, declined to comment. "I don't think it will be fair to comment on it," he added.

Tata said the bid for the two auto marquees were not merely meant to make the group's international presence felt, specially after the successful acquisition of Anglo-Dutch firm Corus by Tata Steel.

"It is to get ourselves the kind of scales and think big... to give ourselves the global reach and to take ourself from single economy," he said.

On the much talked about small car, he said the company was confident of rolling it out in the market by "the middle or the third quarter of 2008".

With doubts being raised over Tata Motors would be able to price the car at Rs 1 lakh due to increasing input costs, he said the company hoped to stick to the original price.

The Apollo Group and Mahindra & Mahindra are also in the chase, says the Financial Times. Again, they are both suitors of the private equity and Indian conglomerate variety. It should be an interesting contest for these famed marques.