Saab juggles Chinese suitors ‘to please GM’

Swedish Automobile, the owners of beleaguered Swedish carmaker Saab have revealed that they are in talks with a new configuration of Chinese partners in what has been descibed as a bid to appease previous owner US General Motors.

Saab juggles Chinese suitors 'to please GM'

Saab’s Dutch owner Swedish Automobile, or Swan, said in a statement it was in discussions with Chinese carmaker Youngman “and a bank in China about an equity interest in Swan.”

Swan had previously agreed to sell 100 percent of Saab, which is currently reorganising under bankruptcy protection, to Youngman and Chinese car distribution company Pang Da, but General Motors blocked the necessary transfer of technology licences to the two Chinese firms.

According to Swedish media reports, Swan had agreed to sell 19.9 percent of Saab to Youngman and 29.9 percent of the firm to state-owned Bank of China, thus ensuring that Chinese ownership remain below the sensitive 50-percent threshold.

However, Swan’s charismatic chief executive Victor Muller denied in a mobile phone text message to the TT news agency that the Chinese bank in question was the Bank of China.

In its statement on Monday, Swan simply said “the discussions include a short term solution to enable Saab Automobile to pay the November wages and continue reorganisation.”

“The outcome of the discussions is still uncertain. Any possible transaction would be subject to the approval of the relevant stakeholders,” it added.

Saab was on the brink of bankruptcy when GM sold it to Swedish Automobile – at the time called Spyker – in early 2010 for $400 million.

It has been a rocky road since then. The carmaker was forced to halt production in April as suppliers stopped deliveries over mountains of unpaid bills and Saab’s some 3,700 people have seen salary payments delayed five months running.

Employees have yet to receive the salaries due on November 25th, and unions threatened last week to pursue bankruptcy proceedings against the firm if wages were further delayed.

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The day a naked Swedish footballer caused an unexpected scandal

In 1949, a Swedish football player made international headlines when he dared to bare in Brazil.

The day a naked Swedish footballer caused an unexpected scandal
Scroll down for the whole image. Photo: PrB/TT

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Brazil would seem to be one of the last places in the world where a bit of nudity could cause offence, never mind create an international uproar. And yet that is exactly what happened 70 years ago when Swedish football player Sven Hjertsson dropped his drawers during a match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Faced with a broken waistband and unwilling to depart the field and leave his team a man down during the close match with Fluminense FC, the 25-year-old defender for Malmö FF made the decision to do a quick change near his team's goalpost.

From the Swedish point of view, the brief nudity this entailed was insignificant. Based on what the Swedish players, coaches and journalists had seen on Brazilian beaches during the 1949 tournament, they clearly assumed the Brazilians would feel the same way. What happened next proved just how vastly different the two countries' views of acceptable nudity were.

“The next day, the Swedish 'Naked Shock' took up full pages in the [Brazilian] megacity's newspapers. The upper-class Fluminense… had never been involved in anything like this,” journalist Henrik Jönsson explained in a 2009 article in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.

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In retrospect, it's difficult to say who was more shocked: the Brazilians by Hjertsson's mooning or the Swedes by the Brazilian reaction to it.

“It was a scandal! The Swedish journalists who were on the trip told us about the uproar. People went and confessed after the game. Dad thought it was ridiculous. On the beach, the Brazilians had minimal swimwear,” recalled former Swedish football player Bertil “Klumpen” Nilsson, whose father Sven Nilsson was a Malmö FF coach, in the Sydsvenskan article. “Hjertsson's white butt became the big topic of conversation when Dad came home. No one understood the Catholic double standard.”

The incident laid bare Sweden's and Brazil's different approaches to nudity. Photo: PrB/TT

In the end, Malmö FF lost the match 2-1. The team – the first from Sweden to be invited to Brazil – did not have an easy time in the tournament. The effects of a long flight, difficulty adjusting to the hot and humid climate of Brazil, and a serious bout of diarrhoea that decommissioned half the team during the first week, had all taken their toll. Champions at home in Sweden, the team nonetheless left Brazil without a win.

READ ALSO: Ten rules for getting naked in Sweden

As for the “Naked Shock”, it seemed only to burnish Hjertsson's reputation back in Sweden, and perhaps even overshadow his legacy to some extent. During his 12-year career at Malmö FF, the team won gold four times in the national championships. He also played 13 times for the Swedish national team, which was considered one of the world's greatest football teams between 1945 and 1950. In 1950, the year after the incident in Brazil, Sweden ranked third in the world ranking, ahead of Brazil in fourth place.

Hjertsson died in 1999, but the photo of him from 1949 lives on as a singular glimpse into international football seven decades ago.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.