Prospective Saab owners used to life in fast lane

STOCKHOLM (AP) - Until its surprise move to buy Saab from
General Motors, luxury automaker Koenigsegg Automotive AB was known
mainly to a privileged few who could afford to spend more than a $1
million on a high-speed, customized sports car.

The company was founded in 1994 by Christian von Koenigsegg, a
Swedish sports car fanatic and entrepreneur, who still is the chief

With a staff of 45, Koenigsegg (KOH-nigs-egg) assembles its
sleek supercars at a former air force base near Angelholm, southern
Sweden. Customers arrive by private jet and test drive the cars on
the runway.

Only about a dozen cars are sold annually - each custom-made
with price tags reportedly ranging between 8 million-18 million
kronor ($1 million-$2.3 million) and top speeds of more than 245
mph (395 kph).

The company describes its clientele as "a select elite of
enthusiasts." Swedish media have reported most of the customers
come from wealthy oil nations in the Middle East.

Koenigsegg's operations are a world apart from Saab, a
mainstream brand producing about 130,000 cars a year until last
year's global slump. Still, von Koenigsegg said his
"entrepreneurial spirit" would benefit Saab, which analysts say
hasn't turned a profit since GM's takeover in 2000.

"We understand that it is a great challenge, but for various
reasons we believe there is potential to develop this long-term,"
the 36-year-old said after the deal was announced Tuesday.

Under Tuesday's tentative deal, von Koenigsegg would become
majority owner of Saab. His main partner is Norwegian investor
Baard Eker - a speed fanatic and former world powerboat champion.

Apart from Koenigsegg, Eker owns an industrial design company, a
sports boat manufacturer and a company that makes projectors.
According to Norwegian media, some of those assets are likely to be
sold to raise money for the Saab acquisition.

Other members of the Koenigsegg consortium include Mark Bishop,
a largely unknown businessman from San Diego, Augie K. Fabela II,
co-founder and former chairman of Russian telecom operator
VimpelCom, and Melissa Schwartz, a 42-year-old Washington,
D.C.-based attorney.

Messages were left with all three but went unreturned Tuesday.

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