Of the companies bidding for Opel, the European arm of General Motors of the U.S., none is more mysterious than the Belgian firm RHJ International.
Beijing Automotive, Canadian car parts maker Magna, Russia’s van maker Gaz – all have an obvious interest in acquiring the troubled Opel unit.
Lazy journalists tend to pigeonhole stories. It makes them quicker to write. So anything involving a Russian bank and vehicle maker must involve mischief.
It took Internet magazine Slate to focus in on the (pretty obvious) fact that Magna’s founder Frank Stronach is an incredible success story of the motor industry.
Like Arnold Schwartznegger, whose growly Austrian accent he shares, he’s an immigrant to the new world. And far from being a Terminator, he promises to save more jobs than rival bidders.
Stronach’s desire to become and industry baron is entirely logical. Likewise Russia’s interest in a venture which would reinvigorate its own car production.
Magna is from Canada, where GM already has huge car plants, and its Austrian founder has a business philosophy that would suit Europe like a hand in a glove compartment.
So GM’s hostility to the Magna-Sberbank bid mystifies Slate Magazine’s auto writer Matthew DeBord. However he misses a trick in his report on the Russian bid for Opel, The General’s Russian Drama.
He overlooks rival RHJ International as a “Belgian” firm, noting that it “would protect certain aspects of GM’s non-Opel related assets”. Far more mysterious than the Russian bid for Opel, is why GM appears to be favouring a “Belgian” holding company over Fiat, Beijing Automotive or the world’s biggest car parts maker Magna.
With interests in musical equipment manufacturers, recording companies, hospitality, nutrition and financial services, RHJ also has a unit that makes auto components.
RHJ, aka Ripplewood, was founded by Tim Collins, an American private equity investor. He made most of his money in Japan and presumably registered his company in Belgium for its flexible rules on corporate governance. Like most big private equity players, he has close ties to the US political elite.
According to blog The Truth About Cars, Collins is one of the few people who is open about his membership of the Bilderburg Group and was a donor to then President Obama's election campaign.
Ripplewood’s role was, according to The Truth About Cars, pure private equity – to acquire Opel along with buckets of government money, close plants, and sell a cleaned-up Opel back to GM. The problem was, Ripplewood’s plan leaked early.
The following are a few links to other people's research, easily found on the Internet.
“Ripplewood made buckets of money out of Japanese telco dealings and went on to buy Denon from Hitachi and then bundle it with Marantz and some choice American brands like Boston Acoustics, Snell, MacIntosh etc. Now they’ve made more money, they have flogged it off through Bain Capital to greedy people with more money than sense who think that they can now make a bundle of dollars out of it too...
“My nasty mind says that if Ripplewood could get hold of Opel etc they would restructure and rebuild it so that they could palm it off later, perhaps even to Fiat or Magna, at a huge profit. I must admit though, I hadn’t noticed/realised the close proximity/links to and support of the Democrats, Billy Bob Clinton and token all round nice guy Barack. I suppose it is best to keep it all in the family though. Just ask The Puppet Master, Uncle Dick Cheney and his Travelling Bush Roadshow – for even more intrigue from the dark side, have a look at this.”