Saturday, Jul 23, 2016
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Automotive

Toledo Jeep workers lead next step in possible Chrysler employee-purchase bid

DETROIT -- A group of United Auto Workers employees in Ohio who are proposing an employee stock-ownership plan for Chrysler Group have hired financial advisers in hopes of being taken seriously as a potential bidder.

The group, which has become registered as a legal entity known as Employee Owned Co. LLC, has hired Morpheus Capital Advisors to arrange financing and consult on the sales process. The group also is being advised by Rich Caires, who is president of ITSS Expos and has worked on deals in the auto industry.

New York-based Morpheus, a boutique investment banking firm, has been in touch with DaimlerChrysler AG's investment bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Morpheus President Mitchell Gordon, a former managing director of Salomon Smith Barney's Transportation Investment Banking Group, is handling the deal.

"We think there is a way to structure a creative deal that will be beneficial for all parties," Gordon said Wednesday.

Germany-based DaimlerChrysler is expected to announce a lead bidder soon. It appears private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP has the edge, but Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. also is seen as a strong contender.

A group made up of New York-based Blackstone Group and Centerbridge Capital Partners remains involved in the talks. But billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Tracinda Corp. has been shut out of the talks.

The UAW group, made up of dozens of employees who work at a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, says an employee stock-ownership plan, or ESOP, would help offset health-care concessions that may have to be given during contract negotiations later this year. The group has received thousands of responses on its Web site from other Chrysler employees who are interested in an ESOP, says group representative Michele Mauder.

"We are hoping to get support from UAW headquarters because we think this will help workers," Mauder said.

The UAW's leadership and legal team have reviewed the worker-group's employee-ownership bid, but the union has not officially backed an ESOP. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has focused most of his efforts on trying to keep Chrysler within DaimlerChrysler. A UAW spokesman declined to comment.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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