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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 15:38 GMT
BMW's 'English Patient'
Joachim Milberg, BMW chairman
When BMW boss Joachim Milberg was appointed one year ago, he was given the job to sort Rover out
by Pauline McCole at BMW HQ in Munich

During BMW's board meeting, the question of whether things at Rover can continue as they are was never on the agenda.

Rather, the managers, shareholders and unions discussed how best BMW could walk away from Rover.

The change in BMW's stance was sudden, and closely followed by the local press here in Munich. For the first time BMW senior executives were prepared to discuss the real possibility of a break-up of the Rover Group. Before, such plans had been dismissed or denied.

BMW has now taken the radical step of stripping the Rover Group - taking those parts of the company it has always wanted the most, those that actually make money, like Landrover and the Mini division.

Paying the buyer?
BMW Headquarter
At BMW's Munich headquarters, managers were not prepared to keep financing Rover's losses
Rover's left-overs, the mass market car production plants, will be disposed of in a way that causes BMW the least harm.

Despite the massive disposal costs there is a sense of relief here, that finally the financial pain for BMW may soon be over.

A terminal case

Pulling the strings at BMW is the Quandt family. It has the single biggest stake in the firm and a huge influence over the direction of the group.

In recent months the family has become increasingly vocal about the financial harm caused by the continuing huge losses at Rover.

For the Quandt family and the management it's now clear that the time has come to finally cut those losses.

The political fall-out may be uncomfortable for a while, but from the executive floors at BMW HQ, short-term discomfort may seem like a small price to pay for freeing BMW from the millstone that Rover has become.

It says it all that here the Rover Group is called the "English Patient" - a sad case whose long-term prognosis is terminal.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Business
BMW set to sell Rover
16 Mar 00 | Business
The Rover Group
15 Mar 00 | Business
The Rover breakdown
15 Mar 00 | Business
Nice cars, shame about the name
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