Ford sells Aston Martin

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A consortium headed by Prodrive boss David Richards buys the famous British marque for £479m

Aston Martin has been sold to a consortium headed by Prodrive boss David Richards for £479m. The move brings to an end speculation about the fate of the marque that has latterly boomed thanks to its range of highly capable sports and GT cars.

Richards will become the non-executive chairman of the firm. The consortium – which is not connected to Prodrive – is completed by US banker John Sinders and two Kuwaiti companies, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment.

Richards commented: “This is an incredible opportunity. Aston Martin is one of the world’s most iconic brands. We are confident we now have all the right ingredients to take Aston Martin to even greater heights.”

Aston’s chief executive Dr Ulrich Bez will remain with the company in the same post for the next five years. He said: “This next stage in the company’s history promises to be the most exciting yet. David Richards and I have a great deal of mutual respect and we are equally passionate about realising the brand’s full potential.”

The consortium has also moved to scotch rumours that the Prodrive F1 team which will compete in the World Championship from 2008 will be branded Aston Martin, though it seems certain that the existing programme of developing, racing and selling sportscars such as the  DBR9, DBRS9 and N24 featured in this issue will continue.

Aston Martin will remain at its Gaydon factory in the Midlands where it employs 1800 people. Ford is to retain a £40m stake in the business, although part of the Newport Pagnell site is to be sold and the rest given over to the works service department when production of the only Aston Martin not to be built in Gaydon, the Vanquish, ceases this summer. It will be replaced in the autumn by the DB9-based DBS model previewed in the recent James Bond film, Casino Royale

Bez also confirmed that the four-door Rapide will go into production before the end of the decade, and that production facilities at Gaydon will be expanded to make space for it. He expects to sell around 2000 Rapides per year, bringing Aston Martin production to approximately 9000 annually, about the same as made by Bentley in Crewe. He would not be drawn into setting an upper limit for Aston Martin production. 

The company known today as Aston Martin was founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford in 1913. It was owned by a succession of wealthy investors until it was sold to David Brown Ltd in 1947. It was sold again in 1972 and once more had to endure the uncertainty of multiple changes of ownership until Victor Gauntlett led a successful bid to buy the company in 1981. He sold 75 per cent of the company to Ford in 1987 which went on to wholly acquire the company in 1994, but not before Gauntlett had signed off the design of the DB7, the car that set Aston Martin on the road to the riches it enjoys today.