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Cerberus to Buy Majority of Chrysler Group

May 14, 2007

DaimlerChrysler AG agreed to pay $1.55 billion to clinch a deal for a private equity firm to take over Chrysler Group. The deal requires new owner Cerberus Capital Management to contribute more than $6 billion to shore up the balance sheet of the automaker and its finance arm, Reuters reported yesterday.

Daimler agreed to pay $1.55 billion, or 1.15 billion euros, to Chrysler in order to exit its nine-year-old merger with the money-losing automaker. Daimler paid $36 billion to acquire Chrysler in 1998.

Under the terms of the unwinding, Cerberus Capital Management gets an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler and its related financial services business. The deal has so far won a cautious endorsement from Chrysler’s main union, the United Auto Workers.

Chrysler Chief Executive Tom LaSorda said the deal would not trigger job cuts beyond the 13,000 the company announced in February, when it unveiled a $1.5 billion 2006 operating loss.

Of Cerberus’ $7.4 billion commitment, $6.05 billion will be put into Chrysler — $5 billion into auto operations and $1.05 billion into its finance arm. Cerberus will also pay $1.35 billion to Daimler, which in turn is loaning $405 million to Chrysler.

The German company — whose name will change to Daimler AG if shareholders approve — will contribute $880 million to cover long-term liabilities at Chrysler. It also agreed to transfer Chrysler’s Auto business free to debt, saying that would mean a net cash cost of $680 million from the sale.

The deal breaks up a product lineup that paired American mass-market brands Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler with Germany’s premium Mercedes-Benz, luxury Maybach and Smart minicars.

New York-based Cerberus is a private investment fund that has built a huge private equity and hedge-fund practice. It hired Wolfgang Bernhard, who helped turn Chrysler around early this decade, as an adviser on the deal. Cerberus officials said Bernhard would not play an active management role moving forward.

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