NEW YORK (AP) - Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who lost out in Chrysler's 1998 merger with Daimler-Benz, wants to buy the troubled automaker back from its now-unhappy German owners.
Kerkorian's wholly-owned investment company, Tracinda Corp., on Thursday made a $4.5 billion cash offer for DaimlerChrysler AG's U.S.-based Chrysler unit.
A deal would put Kerkorian in charge of Chrysler a decade after he claims he was tricked out of potentially billions of dollars in the 1998 deal in which Germany's Daimler-Benz joined with Chrysler in the so-called ''merger of equals.''
Long an active investor in automakers, the 89-year-old former movie mogul once offered $22.8 billion for Chrysler in an unsuccessful 1995 takeover bid.
The offer disclosed Thursday from Tracinda is slightly lower than at least one competing bid from Canadian auto-parts supplier Magna International Inc., worth a reported $4.7 billion.
Tracinda said it would place a $100 million deposit for the right to exclusive bargaining rights.
Tracinda in a statement said it wants ''to build and strengthen'' the troubled automaker and ''will offer the UAW and Chrysler management the opportunity to participate as equity partners in the transaction.''
California-based Tracinda said its offer is subject to Chrysler reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers as well as a deal with DaimlerChrysler on sharing the estimated $22 billion unfunded pension liabilities and health care costs of Chrysler retirees.
Tracinda said it's ready to start a more extensive review of Chrysler's financial books right away and believes it could complete it within 60 days.
Han Tjan, head of corporate communications for DaimlerChrysler in New York, said the German-American automaker is talking with partners about a sale and that the chairman is satisfied with the process.
''All of our options are still open. For us to talk about (Tracinda) is speculation,'' Tjan said.
At least two groups in addition to Tracinda and Magna reportedly have expressed interest in Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler. Cerberus Capital Management LLC and a consortium of investors led by Blackstone Group each have reviewed Chrysler's finances and are expected to make bids.
''As a matter of policy, we can offer no confirmation on any bid submission by Cerberus,'' said Cerberus spokeswoman J.J. Rissi. John Ford, a spokesman for Blackstone, said he could not comment on Tracinda's bid.
A message seeking comment was also left with officials from Magna.