LONDON -- Ford Motor Co. today sold the Aston Martin luxury sports car brand to a consortium of investors in a deal valued at $925 million (479 million pounds).
But Ford is keeping a share of Aston Martin valued at $77 million (40 million pounds) and will hold a separate class of stock in the independent company. Ford will get $848 million from the sale.
The investors are led by David Richards, chairman of Prodrive, a U.K. auto engineering and motor sports company. The investor group also includes Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co, both of Kuwait.
Ford has owned Aston Martin for 20 years.
Ford Motor Co. Executive Vice President Lewis Booth announced the sale at Aston Martin's factory in Gaydon, central England.
Booth said the price was a fair one for all the parties, but described the sale as a "bittersweet moment" for Ford.
Booth is head of Ford of Europe and head of the Premier Automotive Group, which includes Aston Martin.
Booth declined to give a percentage figure for Ford's stake. He also refused to say how much Ford had invested in Aston Martin since 1987.
Richards said he would be actively involved in the running of Aston Martin, which will not be connected with Prodrive.
Bez will stay for five years
Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez will run the company for another five years.
"There will be no change of direction in the future," Bez told reporters. "We are aiming to become the No. 1 prestige car company in the world."
Bez said Aston Martin was "a cottage industry" when he became CEO in 2000 and built only 800 cars that year. Last year, Aston Martin built 7,010 cars.
"By 2005 we had become a luxury cool brand -- and by 2010 we will still be cool, but also the best prestige car company in the world," he said.
Aston Martin launches its latest sports car, a convertible version of its V8 Vantage, on Tuesday, March 13.
Bez said the carmaker will enter the premium sedan market "before the end of the decade" with the Rapide. Aston Martin will build between 1,000 and 2,000 units of the Rapide. The investor group will have to spend on upgrades to the Gaydon plant for the car, said Bez.
Ford will continue to supply engines for Aston Martin from its plant in Cologne, Germany.
Bez said Aston Martin had increased its world dealer numbers to 125 from 60 last year.
Richards said his new Formula One racing team will not be branded Aston Martin and Prodrive will continue to support Aston Martin's sports car racing activities.
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