Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Court hears shareholder suit over DaimlerChrysler

Associated Press

Associated Press 10.21.08, 10:10 AM ETSTUTTGART, Germany -

Former DaimlerChrysler AG boss Juergen Schrempp on Tuesday rejected allegations that the deal he oversaw to create DaimlerChrysler in 1998 undervalued his company's shares, denying a group of investors of potential profits.

Schrempp spoke to a court that opened a new hearing of a suit by former shareholders over the handling of the 1998 combination of Daimler-Benz AG with Chrysler Corp.

In 2006, a Stuttgart court ruled that DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ) must pay a group of 16 investors 22.15 euros ($29.72) per share to resolve the dispute over the valuation of their stock - making for a total payout of 232.6 million euros ($312 million).

DaimlerChrysler appealed, taking the case to a higher Stuttgart court. The company last year sold a majority stake in Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP and has since renamed itself Daimler AG.

Some shareholders claimed that the exchange ratio at the time of the combination undervalued their shares.

Schrempp, DaimlerChrysler's CEO until 2005, rejected that argument.

"It is hard for me to imagine calculating downward such a great company," he told the court. He said the value of both partners had been set with the help of auditors, whose task was to "establish a value freely and independently."

The deal led to several legal cases for DaimlerChrysler - most prominently, a legal battle with billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who sought a payout of more than $1 billion.

Kerkorian claimed that Daimler-Benz engineered a takeover of Chrysler, then cheated him out of an acquisition premium by claiming it was a merger of equals. A Delaware court rejected his suit in 2005.

Schrempp reiterated on Tuesday that "it was a merger among equals."

Daimler board member Ruediger Grube said that "Chrysler fitted us well for several reasons," among them that the German company had been concerned about future growth and was weak in the U.S. at the time.

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