Aston Martin is today under new owners, following the sale of Britain’s premier sports car company to an investment consortium.
After 20 years of ownership, Ford divested itself of the brand, its facilities and its products, in a deal valuing Aston at £479m. The new owner is a consortium led by David Richards, boss of automotive consultancy Prodrive, who helped to unite two private investment companies from Kuwait. Adeem Investment, which already owns the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, has a portfolio worth $1.5 bn. The other company is Investment Dar, which boasts total assets worth $3.5 bn.
While Richards, who drives a Vanquish with the number plate DPR1, will join the board as non-executive chairman, the mastermind behind Aston’s phenomenal growth and its return to profitability – Ulrich Bez – has pledged to remain as chief exec for the next five years. Speaking at a press conference at Gaydon to confirm the sale, Bez announced that the new investors had approved production of the Rapide, the four-door Aston concept unveiled in 2006. The sporty saloon will be on sale by the end of the decade.
Lewis Booth, boss of Ford of Europe, acknowledged that it was a sad day for the Blue Oval, but added: ‘The agreement is good for Aston Martin, its work force and British industry.’ Ford has retained shares worth £40m in the new company. Ford has been forced to sell to generate much-needed funds, as it seeks to turn around its loss-making North American operations. The company is restructuring, to downsize the business to fit its declining market share. ‘With Aston’s unique architecture and customer base, we saw it as a logical divestment to generate capital,' said Booth. Aston would also benefit from additional capital to continue its growth, he added.
The deal appears to safeguard the immediate future of the Gaydon factory in Warwickshire, where all Astons are produced. Bez said the factory workforce had doubled to 1200 employees since 2000, while up to 2000 jobs had been created in the supply chain. ‘We have a deal and it’s a good one,’ said Bez. ‘There will be no change of direction. What will change is the speed and power at which we can work. Our aim is to become the world’s number one prestige car brand.’