According to Reuters, Russian zillionaire Oleg Deripaska had been holding exploratory talks with General Motors about the possibility of buying Hummer, the car brand beloved of film stars and rappers but detested by environmentalists (not to mention arbiters of good taste). However, the billionaire oligarch’s car unit Russian Machines denied the story today, saying it wasn’t ‘strategically interested in such a deal’.
Hummer isn’t technically for sale yet. But GM, having managed to lose an extraordinary $50bn in the last three years, is clearly desperate to raise cash by flogging assets – it’s hired Citibank to review strategic options for the gas-guzzling SUV marque, which is a polite way of saying that it’s being prepared for auction. And if you’re Russia’s richest man (Deripaska recently overtook Roman Abramovich to claim this lofty perch), you probably wouldn’t be inclined to stand on ceremony in these matters.
Given the soaring price of fuel, this might seem an odd time to try and sell a car brand that at best manages about 15 miles per gallon – but needs must, we suppose. GM CEO Rick Wagoner did claim yesterday that the brand was getting ‘some significant interest’ (although we suppose he would say that, wouldn’t he).
However, judging by Russian Machines’ firm denial of the story this morning, Deripaska won’t be the one driving off in the car which divides opinion all over the world. On this side of the Atlantic, the Hummer tends to meet with a fairly mixed reaction – many people see it as the sole preserve of Premiership footballers with more money than sense, and raucous hen dos from Basildon on a big night out. But the Hummer does have a large following in the US, where enormous gas-guzzlers are all the rage – it’s pretty much a required accessory for any big music star, for instance, as you’ll know if you’ve ever seen the MTV show ‘Cribs’.
So there’s every chance that it could survive as a going concern. And given the explosion of new money in Russia in recent years (designer labels are ten-a-penny in Moscow these days), Deripaska wouldn’t have been short of potential customers on his own doorstep – some of whom will almost certainly have more money than sense. It'd be a match made in heaven - we’re surprised that he’s not keen...