David Richards' bid to buy 86-year-old Brit car-maker is successful
12 March 2007

As predicted by Autocar last week, a majority stakehold in Aston Martin has been sold to a consortium led by David Richards. Richards is the British rallying magnate who won a World Rally Championship in 1981 alongside Ari Vatanen, and whose motorsport outfit Prodrive recorded numerous major successes in the WRC, the British Touring Car Championship, in Formula One and at Le Mans, and currently runs Aston Martin's Works racing team.At a press conference called at the company's Gaydon headquarters, Aston Martin confirmed that 90 per cent of its stock had been sold to the consortium led by Richards, and otherwise comprised of Texan banker John Sinders, and Kuwaiti investment firms Investment Dar and Adeem Investment.The agreed price for the majority stake was £480 million, says Aston; previous owner Ford, which will go on supplying engines and other primary mechanicals to Aston, retains a 10 per cent share.

Richards in the chair

The structure and organisation of Aston Martin will survive the transition of ownership largely unchanged. Prodrive and Aston will remain completely separate entities, but Richards will join the board of Aston directors as non-executive chairman. Ulrich Bez will continue as Chief Executive, however. "David Richards and I have a great deal of mutual respect for each other and we are equally passionate about realising Aston Martin's full potential," Bez said.The company will remain at its current base in Gaydon, Warwickshire, and its 1800-strong workforce will be kept on undiminished.

New five-year plan

As a demonstration of its commitment to a bigger future for the brand, Aston's new owners also discussed its ongoing product portfolio. "Every year, we hope to have a surprise for you," said Dr Bez, "and they will begin next year with our new halo-car, the DBS." "This will be different from the car that appeared in the latest James Bond film, and it won't be a direct replacement for the Vanquish either, because we prefer to carve out a new identity for the car" Bez explained. "However, it will be our flagship product, and it will use our VH platform."Bez also committed that the four-seater Rapide model, revealed at the Detroit motor show last year, will go into production in 2009. "We will make between 1000 and 2000 of these four-seaters a year, and will expand the Gaydon production facilities in order to be able to do that."Although it was brief and enigmatic, Bez finally made reference to a third new model called the DBX. While it might have been safer to speculate that this is Aston's internal name for the DB9 replacement, Bez' sentiments suggested that something more unusual could be on the menu. "In the long term, we have to look for growth beyond the current range of cars," he said. Perhaps an all-new kind of Aston is on the cards for the end of the decade; could Bez be tempted to follow his old employer Porsche into the SUV-making business? Watch this space.

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