New Buyer’s 'Entrepreneurial Spirit' Could Benefit Saab

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Until its surprise move to buy Saab from General Motors, luxury automaker Koenigsegg Automotive AB was known mainly to a privileged few who could afford to spend more than a $1 million on a high-speed, customized sports car.

The company was founded in 1994 by Christian von Koenigsegg, a Swedish sports car fanatic and entrepreneur, who still is the chief executive.

With a staff of 45, Koenigsegg assembles its sleek supercars at a former air force base near Angelholm, southern Sweden. Customers arrive by private jet and test drive the cars on the runway.

Only about a dozen cars are sold annually -- each custom-made with price tags reportedly ranging from 8 million to 18 million kronor ($1 million to $2.3 million) and top speeds of more than 245 mph (395 kph).

The company describes its clientele as "a select elite of enthusiasts." Swedish media have reported most of the customers come from wealthy oil nations in the Middle East.

Koenigsegg's operations are a world apart from Saab, a mainstream brand producing about 130,000 cars a year until last year's global slump. Still, von Koenigsegg said his "entrepreneurial spirit" would benefit Saab, which analysts say hasn't turned a profit since GM's takeover in 2000.

"We understand that it is a great challenge, but for various reasons we believe there is potential to develop this long-term," the 36-year-old von Koenigsegg said after the deal was announced Tuesday.

Under Tuesday's tentative deal, von Koenigsegg would become majority owner of Saab. His main partner is Norwegian investor Baard Eker -- a speed fanatic and former world powerboat champion.

Apart from Koenigsegg, Eker owns an industrial design company, a sports boat manufacturer and a company that makes projectors. According to Norwegian media, some of those assets are likely to be sold to raise money for the Saab acquisition.

Other members of the Koenigsegg consortium include Mark Bishop, a largely unknown businessman from San Diego; Augie K. Fabela II, co-founder and former chairman of Russian telecom operator VimpelCom, and Melissa Schwartz, a 42-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney.

Messages were left with all three but went unreturned Tuesday.

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