U.S. appeals court rules for GM over Spyker's Saab sale

Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:15pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) persuaded a federal appeals court to uphold the dismissal of a $3 billion lawsuit in which Spyker NV SPYKF.PK accused it of derailing a plan to sell the Swedish automaker Saab to a Chinese company.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Friday said Spyker failed to show GM intentionally interfered with the Dutch company's effort to sell Saab to Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co, leading to Saab's bankruptcy.

GM had sold a majority of Saab to Spyker in 2010. As part of that sale, it licensed Saab to build vehicles using the Detroit-based automaker's intellectual property, and retained a right to end the license if Saab were sold without its consent.

Spyker said it was in sale talks with Youngman in December 2011 when a GM spokesman made statements suggesting that consent would not be provided, and that a sale might hurt GM. Youngman said it decided to back out "due to GM's position."

Writing for a three-judge 6th Circuit panel, Circuit Judge Eugene Siler said GM's statements were not malicious, and that it had "legitimate business concerns" about the sale, including who would benefit from Saab's use of its technology.

Siler also called Spyker's claim "fatally flawed" because it assumed that GM misinterpreted the license agreement, meaning the spokesman's statements "would have at most amounted to a mistake."

Friday's decision upheld a June 2013 ruling by U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain in Flint, Michigan.

A lawyer for Spyker declined to comment immediately.   Continued...

The company's name is seen at the radiator grill of a Swedish Saab car during the first media day of the 80th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 2, 2010. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud