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Boxer said:
From the NY Times:

March 12, 2007
Ford Is Close to a Deal to Shed Aston Martin Sports Cars
DEARBORN, Mich., March 11 — The Ford Motor Company is expected to sell Aston Martin, maker of the upscale British sports cars favored by James Bond, to a group of investors that includes the racing mogul David Richards and a pair of Kuwaiti companies, people with direct knowledge of the deal said Sunday.

Ford, which put Aston Martin up for sale last August, will retain a 15 percent stake in the marque, according to a person knowledgeable about the terms of the deal.

He asked not to be named because the deal was not yet final.

The sale, which had been expected for several days, will be announced Monday morning, this person said.

The deal is worth about $868 million, a figure first reported by The Financial Times.

Aston Martin is the first nameplate sold by Ford since it announced a revamping plan last year that it calls the Way Forward. Ford, the second-largest American automaker behind General Motors, lost $12.7 billion in 2006.

The deal allows Ford to raise a significant amount of money for its restructuring effort, yet maintain its ties with the brand, this person said. It also returns Aston Martin to British ownership at a time when other famed British car brands have fallen into foreign hands.

Analysts have said an Aston Martin deal could clear the way for Ford to sell its other British brands, like Jaguar and Land Rover, even though Ford, based in Dearborn, Mich., has said it is not interested in doing so.

Officials at Ford and its European Premier Automotive Group division, which includes Aston Martin, declined to comment Sunday.

“They need the cash and they need to invest in their products,” said Brian Moody, senior editor at, a Web site that gives car-buying advice to consumers. “They need to focus on their core stuff.”

The principal buyer, Mr. Richards, is the chief executive of Prodrive, a motor sport and automotive technology company based in Banbury, England.

Prodrive helped develop Aston Martin’s racing program starting in 2004. Prodrive is scheduled to enter Formula One racing in 2008, and there has been speculation that it could use Aston Martin as a platform for its cars.

Prodrive also is part of a joint venture with Ford called Ford Performance Vehicles, which builds the Ford Falcon car for the Australian and New Zealand markets.

The two Kuwaiti companies that joined Mr. Richards in bidding for Aston Martin are Adeem Investment and the Investment Dar Company, Adeem’s chief executive, Mustafa Ebrahim al-Saleh, told Bloomberg News on Sunday.

Trading of Investment Dar stock was suspended on the Kuwait stock market pending news of an “important investment deal,” Bloomberg reported.

Aston Martin has been one of Ford’s few profitable brands in recent years, although its low sales volume made it more a source of prestige than earnings.

“Compared to their other brands, Aston is just so far out there,” Mr. Moody said. “Even something like Land Rover has a little more relevance to the average consumer than Aston.”

Aston Martin has about 100 dealers worldwide and sells three models: the $110,000 V8 Vantage, the $165,000 DB9 and the $260,000 V12 Vanquish.

It will soon begin production of a fourth model, the $250,000 DBS, which the actor Daniel Craig drove in the latest James Bond thriller, “Casino Royale.” An Aston Martin first appeared in the Bond series of movies in “Goldfinger” in 1964.

Its 2006 sales rose by about 50 percent, to 6,500 vehicles. However, the Premier Automotive Group — made up of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo — lost $327 million.

In soliciting buyers for Aston Martin last August, Ford’s chairman, William Clay Ford Jr., said new ownership would “allow it to reach its full potential, while enabling Ford to efficiently raise capital for its other brands.”

Mr. Ford continued, “Since Aston Martin’s dealer network, product architecture and size are distinctly different from other Ford brands, it is the most logical and capital-smart divestiture choice.”

Aston Martin was founded in London in 1913. Ford bought 75 percent of the brand in 1987 for an undisclosed amount and took full ownership in 1994 as it opened a new factory for the brand in Bloxham, England.

Ford brought in a former Porsche executive, Ulrich Bez, to run Aston Martin.

The Sunday Times in London said that Mr. Bez would keep his position at Aston Martin while Mr. Richards assumed the role of chairman.
I guess with a bit of a stretch of the imagination we can say that Aston is back in British hands at least !

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