NEW YORK - Chrysler chief executive officer Robert Nardelli said he expected the sale of the bulk of Chrysler's assets to a group headed by Italy's Fiat S.p.A. to close today, assuming the judge overseeing the automaker's bankruptcy case approves the deal.
Nardelli testified in court yesterday that he expected the required U.S. regulatory approvals for the sale to be in place by today and international approvals to follow shortly thereafter.
But it is likely that if U.S. Judge Arthur Gonzalez does approve the deal, lawyers representing three Indiana state pension and construction funds, which hold Chrysler debt and are aggressively opposing the sale, will appeal the decision and force Chrysler to postpone the closing. Fiat could back out if the deal does not wrap up by June 15.
Chrysler L.L.C. yesterday began its second day of testimony to convince the bankruptcy judge that selling itself to Fiat was the best way to avoid liquidation.
If Gonzalez approves the sale, as expected, the automaker could emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection within weeks. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection April 30.
The judge will eventually hear from various dissenters to the sale, including the funds that hold less than 1 percent of Chrysler's secured debt.
Gonzalez said he was prepared to continue the hearing into today if needed.
Attorneys for Chrysler say that unloading its assets to a group led by Fiat is the only way to avoid selling off the automaker piece by piece. They say a leaner Chrysler could shift more easily to building smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
But many Chrysler dealers, bondholders, and former employees say they are being steamrolled by the speedy Bankruptcy Court proceedings.