At the 11th hour, the loudest noise was a clock ticking towards closure deadline

The Eight-Week Crisis
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The Independent Online

By the middle of March this year what was becoming increasingly clear - although the Government initially dismissed it as speculation - was that BMW was considering breaking up its loss-making subsidiary.

16 March: Meeting in Munich the BMW board finally makes the decision to break up Rover, selling Land Rover to Ford.

17 March: After days of speculation Jon Moulton, managing partner of the venture capitalists Alchemy Partners, reveals details of his plan to end volume car production at Longbridge, but make a sports model under the old MG badge. Under attack for "complacency" from the Opposition, Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, establishes a taskforce to investigate ways of helping the West Midlands if Longbridge is closed.

22 March: John Hemming, a Birmingham businessman and Liberal Democrat member of the city council, announces a campaign to establish a consortium to bid in opposition to Alchemy, which he regards as asset strippers. Rover dealers demand compensation from BMW for their investment in the cars.

28 March: BMW's results show heavy losses at Rover, which had cost the German firm £2.85bn in the six years since it bought the car maker.

29 March: BMW official Werner Samann tells the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee that unsuccessful efforts had been made to sell Rover to Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota.

1 April: Tens of thousands of people join a march and rally in Birmingham to support the Rover workers.

6 April: The rival bid gathers pace, when a consortium headed by the former Rover chief executive John Towers meets BMW.

27 April: BMW says the Towers bid is "not financially backed", although members of the consortium argue that they have given the German company all possible assurances.

28 April: Alchemy issues a shock statement saying that negotiations with BMW have ended. Insiders believe the venture capital company is "playing a game of poker" and that it will be prepared to re-enter negotiations on their own terms. Mr Moulton subsequently admits as much.

1 May: Tony Blair promises that he will work "night and day" to help rescue jobs at Rover. Downing Street officials intervene directly to win some breathing space for the Phoenix consortium.

2 May: BMW sets a 10-day deadline for the Phoenix consortium to produce a business plan for Rover during the first day of negotiations between the companies.

3 May:BMW says it still has not received any firm indication of financial backing for the Phoenix bid.

5 May: Phoenix tells BMW that the backing is now in place and a detailed breakdown is also given to Mr Byers.

9 May: BMW and the Phoenix consortium announce they have signed a contract for the sale of Rover Cars.

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