Volkswagen AG won shareholder approval Friday to buy Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. for about $700 million, despite angry bursts of nationalism from small investors who wanted to keep the luxury carmaker British.
Vickers PLC, the corporation that owns Rolls-Royce, announced at the end of a stormy meeting that investors had agreed to sell Rolls-Royce to Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker.Proxy votes and votes from big institutional shareholders appeared to have been sufficient to approve the deal, but Vickers held off the announcement until it had counted ballots from smaller shareholders.
"Should I call it now a Rolls-wagen?" shareholder Rodney Crowe asked during Vickers' special meeting.
Vickers shareholders first rejected a bid of about $554 million from rival German auto-maker BMW.
Volkswagen faces potential hurdles as it moves to take over production of luxury Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars, which cost about $250,000 each.
The jilted suitor, BMW, supplies some engines to Rolls-Royce and has threatened to cut off deliveries. BMW spokesman Uwe Mahla said in Munich that Friday's developments were "for us a very surprising situation," and BMW sources said executives were holding an emergency meeting.
Rolls-Royce PLC, a separate company that makes jet engines, controls the brand name and logo and has made it clear it would rather see the deal go to BMW, which happens to be its partner in a jet engine venture.
Rolls-Royce PLC has not said whether it will negotiate with Volkswagen or try to block its use of the brand name.
Asked about that, the Vickers chairman, Sir Colin Chandler, insisted that a 25-year-old contract that would let Rolls-Royce PLC veto the purchase of Rolls-Royce Motors Cars Ltd. by a foreign buyer is legally unenforceable.
"The trademark can't go anywhere else," Chandler said. "We exclusively own the radiator, the Flying Lady and Bentley."