A San Francisco private equity firm Citron Capital has made a bid to buy Ford’s Land Rover unit. We first heard this from a source, who said they’d confirmed it with someone in the upper ranks of Ford.
We’re seeing a general expansion of the Bay Area’s money mandate. First it was venture capital. Then private equity firms started moving here, or were created from scratch, like Silver Lake, and then Elevation Partners. Elevation is is buying New-York based media outfits like Forbes. Now Bay Area money is bailing out Detroit?
We’ve run this by Jonathan Tower, a Citron partner. He couldn’t say much, he said, because of confidentiality agreements, but added:
On the record, I can only reiterate firm policy that we don’t comment on any deal – pending, contemplated or otherwise — until it is signed. The folks at FoMoCo will likely state something similar about conversations with private equity firms along with a statement about there not having been made any decision to sell Land Rover or any other Ford unit other than Aston Martin.
Excepting the above, let me issue the firm’s party line and say we think highly of the Land Rover unit and feel it possesses a lot of the elements we would look for in a buyout on this scale — a legendary upmarket brand, a near-fanatical customer base and loyalty, complete focus on a core business (as opposed to johnny-come-lately entrants to the SUV market which built their reputations elsewhere), unique positioning for cross-over products, hybrid models and brand extension opportunities, and the inarguable reputation as the marque that single-handedly created the SUV/off-road category and continues to dominate it year after year.
Land Rover, we note, is one of the few units driving sales within Ford’s broader Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which is losing a lot of money ($162 million pre-tax loss in second quarter alone). So if Ford is thinking about selling Land Rover, we’re wondering if the entire PAG might be on the block?