Outlook: Show us the colour of your money, Mr Shrimpton

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The Independent Online
CREWE Motors, the rag-bag collection of enthusiasts attempting to stop Rolls-Royce Motor Cars from falling into German hands, may be a serious proposition. Alternatively, it may be nothing more than a pantomime horse. The front end is formed by the ample bulk of Michael Shrimpton, a Bentley-driving barrister with a penchant for self-publicity. The rear end, if we are to believe Mr Shrimpton, is propped up by a British clearing bank and an American billionaire. In the best panto tradition, however, the identity of these hind quarters remain a mystery.

Not for much longer. Mr Shrimpton has promised to unveil his bid by tomorrow along with the name of the clearing bank. We may have to wait a little longer for the identities of the Bentley enthusiasts supporting the offer. In fact we may never discover them - for a consortium so keen to court publicity, the Shrimpton Crewe are curiously shy when it comes to stepping into the limelight themselves.

Being a barrister, Mr Shrimpton will not be surprised to discover that Vickers, the vendors of R-RMC, will require rather more by way of hard evidence that his bid has any substance. Full disclosure, in fact, will need to be the order of the day. Crewe Motors says that it already has enough money in the kitty to top the pounds 430m recommended offer tabled by Volkswagen, and then match the pounds 300m the Germans have pledged to invest in the Bentley and Rolls marques over the next five years.

All this, without ever having been granted access to the data room, the Rolls-Royce management or the factory in Crewe for that matter. This suggests that Mr Shrimpton's backers have as much trust in him as he is asking for from Vickers' shareholders. Supposing the pantomime horse has not exited stage left by the time Friday's shareholders' meeting arrives, then the best he can hope for is a postponement of the vote on VW's offer.

In the meantime, BMW, the bidder that Vickers ditched in favour VW, remains the dark horse to watch in the closing stages of the race for Rolls-Royce.

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