Sweden’s Shareholders Association (Aktiespararna) has slammed as “completely wrong” a decision by Saab parent Swedish Automobile (Swan) to award its chairman a massive pay increase of 500%.

Swan chairman Hans Hugenholtz – described as a friend of Saab CEO Victor Muller – received an almost EUR100,00 (US$144,000) May increase in salary according to Aktiespararna as the Swedish automaker was heading into a financial storm.

“I would say it is a decision that was completely wrong,” Aktiespararna CEO Gunter Marda told just-auto from Stockholm. “Of course it is very critical when you raise it (salary) when the company is in crisis.

“It sends a bad signal to all stakeholders around the company. In June – employees did not have their salaries because there was not enough money. When you see the board of directors get huge increases, of course it is not good.”

Marda noted the colossal pay rise came at the same time as Swan changed its name from the previous Spyker brand. The shareholders’ CEO stressed Muller receives his remuneration from Saab.

“The increase was more than 500% to to nearly EUR100,000 for the chairman, but he is the only one sitting,” said Marda. “The actual increase is only for one person as the other ones were kicked out.

“The chairman is a friend of Victor Muller – it is Hans Hugenholtz who is the chairman of Swan based [on] the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.”

The development piles yet more misery on Saab, which was late yesterday (17 August) in paying debts to suppliers. That matter is now being dealt with by Swedish debt enforcement agency Kronofogden, which has asked Saab banks for account details.

The automaker owes around SEK4m (US$630,000) to Kongsberg Automotive and consultants Infotiv, but the debt agency said no cash had been received to settle the accounts.

A Saab spokeswoman declined to comment.