Li Shufu, 54, is tenth on Forbes magazine's China Rich List and 209th on its global ranking, with an estimated net worth of $17.4 billion. Instead it was a Chinese upstart that made an unsolicited play for the inventor of the modern automobile.
"With over a decade of remarkable achievements, BBAC stands as evidence of the strong collaboration between BAIC and Daimler", said Xu Heyi, Chairman of the BAIC Group. On Monday AB Volvo said it would drop a board member because Li's stake in Daimler created competition concerns.
The way it's being reported, it seems chairman Li just amassed the US$ 9 billion stake in Daimler a little at a time without the Germans even noticing.
The irony of the whole event descends like a ton of bricks. Now, it's up to China to deliver.
Meanwhile, Chinese investors in German technology companies, such as Midea, which bought Kuka, one of the world's largest makers of industrial robots, or Weicha which bought a large stake in Kion, have tended to engage in lengthy consultation with German stakeholders. Once a decision has been taken, then it executes, delivering the desired results with total planning certainty.
In fact, President Xi Jinping is said to have repeatedly voiced support for Geely when he was the party boss of Zhejiang province in 2003.
What may interest Geely is Daimler's work in integrating its electrification technology with self-driving cars.
Some politicians see the investment in a broader context of Chinese cash winding around the sinews of the European economy.
One of the richest men in China has made a big bet on an icon of Europe's automotive industry. Last week, China's government temporarily took over Anbang Insurance Group Co, whose buying binge including properties such as Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria hotel has come to symbolize the overreach of the nation's debt-laden conglomerates. Hazelwood officials recently extended their loan agreement with the company, which is now called the London EV Company as it remains in contention for a lucrative electric van contract from the United States Postal Service.
Li's purchase suggests these are loosening once more.
China's weighty import tax - 25 percent for cars - means they must produce within China to make vehicles mass-market affordable.
As part of the investment, one of BAIC production facilities located in the capital city's Shunyi district will be modified and transferred to BBAC to facilitate the production Mercedes-Benz cars. How do you say no to your largest shareholder?