Billionaire backs Rolls consortium

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The Independent Online
THE GROUP of Rolls-Royce owners battling to keep the famous luxury car maker in British hands is being bankrolled by an unnamed American billionaire, it emerged yesterday.

Michael Shrimpton, the Bentley-driving barrister and self-styled chairman of the Crewe Motors consortium, said yesterday that in addition to the US billionaire, he had the backing of a British clearing bank.

Mr Shrimpton said the consortium would submit its bid by tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to prevent Rolls-Royce Motor Cars being taken over by one of two German bidders, Volkswagen and BMW.

But he refused to disclose the name of the clearing bank, or any of the consortium's other backers. He said Crewe Motors, named after the location of the Rolls-Royce factory, would better the pounds 430m bid tabled by VW and would match the DM1bn it has pledged to invest in the Rolls product range over the next five years. "Rolls-Royce is our flagship. It is the industrial rose of England," Mr Shrimpton said.

The group, which is being advised by the small British private client broker Butterfield Securities and Financial Dynamics, intended to announce its bid formally along with the unnamed clearing bank by tomorrow at the latest.

The consortium doubts that Vickers, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' parent company, will have time to recommend the offer. But Mr Shrimpton said he was hoping to get a postponement of Friday's extraordinary shareholders meeting called to approve the VW bid.

He said the offer would be 80 per cent equity financed and 20 per cent funded by debt and that DM1bn of investment over five years was a "realistic sum".

A spokesman for Vickers confirmed it had not yet received a firm offer from the Crewe Motors consortium, but said all new offers would be assessed.

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