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Most of Saleen sold to Michigan group

Wed, 04 Feb 2009

The future of specialty carmaker Saleen Inc. is getting a little clearer: Most of the company was sold to a Michigan group last week after being on the block since November.

An entity called MJ Acquisitions, which owns parts and engine companies in Michigan, bought Saleen’s performance street-car program, supercharger and aftermarket business from Los Angeles private-investment firm Hancock Park Associates. Terms were not revealed.

Saleen’s supercars, the S7 and the S5 Raptor concept, and the Viper paint-shop operation, were not included in the deal and remain with Hancock for now.

ASC, a sister company of Saleen also owned by Hancock, was not part of the sale.

Chris Theodore, a former Ford and Chrysler executive, is stepping down as Saleen president, saying he plans to leave by the end of February. He said he is working to sell off the final parts of Saleen.

The new owners plan to continue with Saleen’s value performance brand, Racecraft, for the 2010 Mustang with the goal of having something ready in April. They’re also looking to add a version of the S-Line for the new pony car as well, perhaps for the third quarter, said spokesman Jeff Clark.

Saleen has been synonymous with speedy ’Stangs since 1984. The company was founded by race-car driver Steve Saleen, and it has been responsible for some of the more enduring performance versions of Ford cars over the past two decades, including the recent Dark Horse, Gurney Signature and Sterling editions.

Lately, however, the company has been in flux, with founder Saleen leaving in 2007 and a number of other top execs departing last year.

Theodore says he’s optimistic that the new owners can put Saleen on solid footing, noting that he worked with one of them at Chrysler, though we wouldn’t reveal the identity.

“There’s a lot of potential for this place to grow,” he said Wednesday.

Unclear is what shape Saleen will take in the future. All of its employees were laid off, but some are being rehired. It’s also not known whether the company’s leased headquarters in suburban Detroit will be of use to the new owners.

By Greg Migliore