New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Achaogen Inc.

Achaogen Inc.

April 15, 2019

Biopharma is where it’s at!!

San Francisco-based Achaogen Inc. ($AKAO) is the latest in a slate of biopharma debtors who have found their way into bankruptcy court — here, the District of Delaware. Achaogen is focused on “the development and commercialization of innovative antibiotic treatments against multi-drug resistant gram-negative infections.” To date, its operations have been centered around the discovery, development and commercialization of products, making it as far as clinical trials in certain instances. As if inspired by the fact that its filing came on the heels of the much-anticipated Game of Thrones (final) Season 8 premiere, the company colorfully notes its primary purpose:

Achaogen designed its lead product, ZEMDRI® (plazomicin), to fight what the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) calls a “nightmare bacteria” and has listed as the highest category threat of “urgent.” ZEMDRI can be used to treat patients who have limited or no alternative treatment options from infections with these nightmare bacteria. Even with its current financial situation, Achaogen continues to commercialize ZEMDRI, in part because Achaogen believes that ZEMDRI can save lives for patients who may literally have no alternative.

Nightmare bacteria!! Sheesh that’s chilling.

Even more chilling is the company’s discussion of gram-negative bacteria — found “everywhere, in virtually all environments on Earth that support life.” These bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to common antibiotics. Achaogen calls this “a global crisis…we take for granted.” The company’s core (patented) product, ZEMDRI, is designed to “retain its effectiveness in killing these more resistant bacteria.” While ZEMDRI received FDA approval for IV-treatment of patients with complicated urinary tract infections in July 2018, the FDA rejected ZEMDRI for treatment of patients with bloodstream infections, citing a lack of substantial evidence of effectiveness.

What does the company have going for it? Again, as of July 2018, it has a commercially viable product in the United States. It also has global commercialization rights. And patent protect in the US through approximately 2031 or 2032. It sells to either specialty distributors or physician-owned infusion centers. It has agreements with Hovione Limited and Pfizer for the manufacturing of its product. Finally, it has another product in development, C-Scape, which is an oral antibiotic for treatment of patients suffering from urinary tract infections caused by a particular bacteria.

So, what’s the issue? As PETITION readers have come to learn, the development and manufacture of biopharma products is a time and capital intensive process. Indeed, the company has an accumulated deficit of $559.4mm as of December 31, 2018. This bit is especially puzzling given the company’s position that the world confronts a “global crisis”:

In the past year, there has been a dramatic downturn in the availability of financing from both the debt and equity markets for companies in the anti-infective field, based in part on the withdrawal from the space by certain large pharmaceutical companies. For example, Novartis recently announced that it is shutting down its antibacterial and antiviral research, which was followed by similar moves from Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca.3 Allergan has also recently announced its intention to divest its anti-infective business, consisting of three commercialized products. This “big pharma flight” from antiinfective research, development and commercialization has created significant challenges for early-stage biotech companies seeking to develop and commercialize novel and much needed drugs in this sector, as opportunities for partnerships, joint R&D relationships, and merger/acquisition transactions have diminished. This sector-wide trend has negatively affected not just Achaogen but many of its competitors. Achaogen, however, has been especially impacted because it has reached the point in its life cycle where it needs substantial capital infusion to drive commercialization of its recently FDA approved drug, ZEMDRI.

Look: we don’t take everything debtors say as gospel. After all, first day pleadings are an opportunity to frame the story and set the tone of a case. But if the company is right about what it’s saying and nobody appears to give two sh*ts, well, color us a wee bit concerned. Why isn’t anybody talking about this?

Anyway, in February 2018, the company entered into a loan and security agreement with Silicon Valley Bank for $50mm. The original agreement provided SVB with a security interest in virtually all of the company’s assets — including proceeds of intellectual property — but not a security interest in the IP itself. $15mm remains outstanding under the loan. In November 2018, the company retained Evercore Group LLP to run a strategic sale process but no viable purchaser emerged. It’s not worth saving the world unless you can make some dinero, we suppose.

After engaging in various liquidity maximization efforts (including job cuts), fundraising initiatives (including an insufficient equity raise), and licensing discussions with entities abroad, the company ultimately decided that nothing would generate enough liquidity for the company to avoid chapter 11. The company notes, “although Achaogen’s out-of-court sale process did not yield any acceptable bids, many parties had expressed interest in bidding at any potential 363 auction sale, where it could pursue the Assets free and clear of existing liabilities.” The company, therefore, filed for chapter 11 to pursue a new sale process; it has no stalking horse bidder teed up. To market its assets, the company has replaced Evercore with Cassel Salpeter & Co. LLC.

In support of the bankruptcy case, SVB committed to provide the company with a $25mm DIP credit facility of which $10mm is new money and $15mm is a roll-up of the aforementioned pre-petition debt. In exchange, SVB now gets a security interest in the company’s IP.

The company’s unsecured debt is comprised of lease obligations, minimum purchase requirements under its manufacturing contract, a success fee tied to the company’s FDA approval, and $18.7mm of trade debt. New Enterprise Associates Inc., a reputed Silicon Valley venture capital firm, is the company’s largest equity holder with approximately 10.76% of the company’s shares. Prior to its 2014 IPO, the company had raised $152.1mm starting with its Series A round in August 2004: it IPO’d at a valuation of $200.4mm, having issued 6.9mm shares at $12/share to the public. It’s equity is likely worth f*ck all. Well, not exactly: we suppose this isn’t ENTIRELY “f*ck all”:

Screen Shot 2019-04-15 at 2.48.04 PM.png

But it’s pretty darn close. Now the issue is what price the IP will fetch in a bankruptcy sale process. It will have to be tens of millions of dollars for NEA to have any sort of recovery.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Shannon)

  • Capital Structure: $15mm secured debt (Silicon Valley Bank)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Hogan Lovells US LLP (Erin Brady, Richard Wynne, Christopher Bryant, John Beck) & (local) Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP (Derek Abbott, Andrew Remming, Matthew Talmo, Paige Topper)

    • Financial Advisor: Meru LLC

    • Investment Banker: Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC

    • Claims Agent: KCC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Professionals:

    • Prepetition & DIP Lender ($25mm): Silicon Valley Bank

      • Legal: Morrison & Foerster LLP ( Alexander Rheaume, Todd Goren, Benjamin Butterfield, David Ephraim) & (local) Ashby & Geddes PA (Gregory Taylor, Stacy Newman)

⛽️New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Jones Energy Inc.⛽️

Jones Energy Inc.

April 14, 2019

Austin-based independent oil and natural gas E&P company, Jones Energy Inc., filed a prepackaged chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure its $1.009b of debt ($450mm senior secured first lien notes and $559mm unsecured notes across two tranches). In case you didn’t realize, oil and gas exploration and production is a capital intensive business.

The company operates primarily in the Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma and Texas. Its territory is the aggregation of acreage accumulated over the years, including the 2009 purchase of Crusader Energy Group Inc. out of bankruptcy for $240.5mm in cash.

We’re not going to belabor the point as to why this company is in bankruptcy: the narrative is no different than most other oil and gas companies that have found their way into bankruptcy court over the last several years. Indeed, this chart about sums things up nicely:

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 2.29.01 PM.png

It’s really just a miracle that it didn’t file sooner. Why hadn’t it? Per the company:

…the Debtors consummated a series of liquidity enhancing transactions, including equity raises, debt repurchases, strategic acquisitions, non-core asset sales, and modifications of their operations to reduce their workforce and drilling activities. This included a Company-wide headcount reduction in 2016 resulting in the termination of approximately 30% of the Debtors’ total workforce, as well as halting drilling activity spanning several months during the worst of the historic commodity downturn.

But…well…the debt. As in, there’s too much of it.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 2.56.24 PM.png

And debt service costs were too damn high. In turn, the company’s securities traded too damn low:

Source: Disclosure Statement

Source: Disclosure Statement

What’s more interesting here is the process that unfolded. In February 2018, the company issued $450mm of 9.25% ‘23 senior secured first lien notes. The proceeds were used to repay the company’s senior secured reserve-based facility and eliminate the restrictive covenants contained therein. The company also hoped to use the proceeds to repurchase some of its senior unsecured notes at a meaningful discount to par. In a rare — yet increasingly common — show of unity, however, the company’s unsecured lenders thwarted these efforts by binding together pursuant to a “cooperation agreement” and telling the company to take its pathetic offer and pound sand. (PETITION Note: its amazing what lenders can achieve if they can solve for a collective action problem). This initiated a process that ultimately led to the transaction commemorated in the company’s announces restructuring support agreement.

So what now? The senior secured lenders will equitize their debt and come out with 96% of the common stock in the reorganized entity. Holders of unsecured debt will get 4% equity and warrants (exercisable for up to a 15% ownership stake in the reorganized company), both subject to dilution by equity issued to management under a “Management Incentive Plan.” The company has a commitment for $20mm of exit financing lined up (with the option for replacement financing of up to $150mm).

Hopefully the company will have better luck without the albatross of so much debt hanging over it.

  • Jurisdiction: S.D. of Texas (Judge TBD)

  • Capital Structure: $450mm 9.25% ‘23 senior secured first lien notes (UMB Bank NA), $559mm 6.75% ‘22 and 9.25% ‘23 unsecured notes (Wells Fargo Bank NA)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (James Sprayragen, Christopher Marcus, Brian Schartz, Anthony Grossi, Ana Rotman, Rebecca Blake Chaikin, Mark McKane, Brett Newman, Kevin Chang) & (local) Jackson Walker LLP (Matthew Cavenaugh, Jennifer Wertz)

    • Independent Directors: Tara Lewis, L. Spencer Wells

    • Financial Advisor: Alvarez & Marsal LLC (Ryan Omohundro)

    • Investment Banker: Evercore Group LLC (Daniel Aronson)

    • Claims Agent: Epiq (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Ad Hoc Group of First Lien Noteholders

      • Legal: Milbank LLP (Dennis Dunne, Evan Fleck, Michael Price) & (local) Porter Hedges LLP (John Higgins, Eric English, Genevieve Graham)

      • Financial Advisor: Lazard Freres & Co. LLC

    • Ad Hoc Group of Crossover Holders

      • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Brian Resnick, Benjamin Schak) & (local) Haynes and Boone LLP (Charlie Beckham, Kelli Norfleet)

      • Financial Advisor: Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc.

    • Metalmark Capital LLC

      • Legal: Vinson & Elkins LLP (Andrew Geppert, David Meyer, Jessica Peet, Michael Garza)

Updated 4/15/19 2:05 CT

New Chapter 11 Filing - Hexion Holdings LLC

Hexion Holdings LLC

April 1, 2019

What we appreciate that and, we hope thanks to PETITION, others will eventually come to appreciate, is that there is a lot to learn from the special corporate law, investment banking, advisory, and investing niche labeled “restructuring” and “distressed investing.” Here, Ohio-based Hexion Holdings LLC is a company that probably touches our lives in ways that most people have no knowledge of: it produces resins that “are key ingredients in a wide variety of industrial and consumer goods, where they are often employed as adhesives, as coatings and sealants, and as intermediates for other chemical applications.” These adhesives are used in wind turbines and particle board; their coatings prevent corrosion on bridges and buildings. You can imagine a scenario where, if Washington D.C. can ever get its act together and get an infrastructure bill done, Hexion will have a significant influx of revenue.

Not that revenue is an issue now. It generated $3.8b in 2018, churning out $440mm of EBITDA. And operational performance is on the upswing, having improved 21% YOY. So what’s the problem? In short, the balance sheet is a hot mess.* Per the company:

“…the Debtors face financial difficulties. Prior to the anticipated restructuring, the Debtors are over nine times levered relative to their 2018 adjusted EBITDA and face annual debt service in excess of $300 million. In addition, over $2 billion of the Debtors’ prepetition funded debt obligations mature in 2020. The resulting liquidity and refinancing pressures have created an unsustainable drag on the Debtors and, by extension, their Non-Debtor Affiliates, requiring a comprehensive solution.”

This is what that capital structure looks like:

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 12.28.48 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 12.29.02 PM.png

(PETITION Note: if you’re wondering what the eff is a 1.5 lien note, well, welcome to the party pal. These notes are a construct of a frothy high-yield market and constructive readings of credit docs. They were issued in 2017 to discharge maturing notes. The holders thereof enjoy higher priority on collateral than the second lien notes and other junior creditors below, but slot in beneath the first lien notes).

Anyway, to remedy this issue, the company has entered into a support agreement “that enjoys the support of creditors holding a majority of the debt to be restructured, including majorities within every tier of the capital structure.” The agreement would reduce total funded debt by $2b by: (a) giving the first lien noteholders $1.45b in cash (less adequate protection payments reflecting interest on their loans), and 72.5% of new common stock and rights to participate in the rights offering at a significant discount to a total enterprise value of $3.1b; and (b) the 1.5 lien noteholders, the second lien noteholders and the unsecured noteholders 27.5% of the new common stock and rights to participate in the rights offering. The case will be funded by a $700mm DIP credit facility.

*Interestingly, Hexion is a derivative victim of the oil and gas downturn. In 2014, the company was selling resin coated sand to oil and gas businesses to the tune of 8% of sales and 28% of segment EBITDA. By 2016, segment EBITDA dropped by approximately $150mm, a sizable loss that couldn’t be offset by other business units.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Gross)

  • Capital Structure: See above.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Latham & Watkins LLP (George Davis, Andrew Parlan, Hugh Murtagh, Caroline Reckler, Jason Gott, Lisa Lansio, Blake Denton, Andrew Sorkin, Christopher Harris) & (local) Richards Layton & Finger PA (Mark Collins, Michael Merchant, Amanda Steele, Brendan Schlauch)

    • Managers: Samuel Feinstein, William Joyce, Robert Kaslow-Ramos, George F. Knight III, Geoffrey Manna, Craig Rogerson, Marvin Schlanger, Lee Stewart

    • Financial Advisor: AlixPartners LLP

    • Investment Banker: Moelis & Company LLC

    • Claims Agent: Omni Management Group (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Ad Hoc Group of First Lien Noteholders

      • Legal: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP (Ira Dizengoff, Philip Dublin, Daniel Fisher, Naomi Moss)

      • Financial Advisor: Evercore Group LLC

    • Ad Hoc Group of Crossover Noteholdres

      • Legal: Milbank LLP (Samuel Khalil, Matthew Brod)

      • Financial Advisor: Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc.

    • Ad Hoc Group of 1.5 Lien Noteholders

      • Legal: Jones Day (Sidney Levinson, Jeremy Evans)

    • Pre-petition RCF Agent & Post-petition DIP Agent ($350mm): JPMorgan Chase Bank NA

      • Legal: Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

    • Trustee under the First Lien Notes and the Second Lien Notes: Wilmington Trust NA

    • Trustee of 1.5 Lien Notes: Wilmington Savings Fund Society FSB

      • Legal: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP

    • Trustee of Borden Indentures: The Bank of New York Mellon

    • Sponsor: Apollo

    • Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors

      • Legal: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP (Kenneth Eckstein, Douglas Mannal, Rachael Ringer) & (local) Bayard PA (Scott Cousins, Erin Fay, Gregory Flasser)

Updated:

🚽New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Orchids Paper Products Company🚽

Orchids Paper Products Company

April 1, 2019

We first wrote about Orchids Paper Products Company ($TIS) back in November 2018 in “🚽More Trouble in Paper-Ville (Short A$$-Wipes)🚽.” It is a piece worth revisiting because it sums up the situation rather nicely. We wrote:

Orchids Paper Products Company ($TIS) is a Okahoma-based producer of bulk tissue paper which is later converted into finished products like paper towels, toilet paper and paper napkins; it sells its products for use in the “at home” market under private label to dollar stores, discount retailers and grocery stores. Its largest customers include the likes of Dollar General Corp. ($DG)Walmart Inc. ($WMT) and Family Dollar/Dollar Tree, which, combined, account for over 60% of the company’s sales. Given the rise of the dollar stores and discount retailers and the rise in private label generally, you’d think that this company would be killing it. Spoiler alert: it’s not. In fact, it is, by definition, insolvent.

And:

This company doesn’t produce enough toilet paper to wipe away this sh*tfest. See you in bankruptcy court.

And that’s precisely where they (and affiliates) are now — in the District of Delaware.

And the story hasn’t really changed: the debtors still struggle from operational issues related to their facilities, too much competition (causing margin compression and loss of pricing power), rising input costs, and customer defections. To make matters worse, given the debtors’ deteriorating financial position, raw materials suppliers reduced credit terms given the debtors’ public reporting of its troubles. Consequently, virtually all of the debtors’ financial metrics got smoked. Gross profit? Smoked. Cash flow? Smoked. Net income? Smoooooooked.

Speaking of “smooooooked,” the company twice notes its termination of their investment banker, Guggenheim Securities. Bankers get replaced all of the time: not entirely sure why they felt the need to make such an issue of it here. That said, Guggenheim apparently marketed the company for months without finding a prospective buyer that would clear the debt. The company, therefore, hired Houlihan Lokey ($HL) to market the company. The result? They couldn’t find a buyer that would clear the debt. Nothing like paying a new banker AND presumably paying some sort of tail to your old banker just to end up with your pre-petition secured lender as your stalking horse bidder (and DIP lender)! Sheesh.

As we said, “[t]his company doesn’t produce enough toilet paper to wipe away this sh*tfest.”

  • Jurisdiction: (Judge Walrath)

  • Capital Structure: $187.3mm RCF/TL (Ankura Trust Company, L.L.C.), $11.1mm New Market Tax Loan

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Polsinelli PC (Christopher Ward, Shanti Katona, Jerry Switzer Jr.)

    • Board of Directors: Steven Berlin, John Guttilla, Douglas Hailey, Elaine MacDonald, Mark Ravich, Jeffrey Schoen

    • Financial Advisor: Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP (Richard Infantino)

    • Investment Banker: Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc.

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Large Equityholder: BML Investment Partners LP

    • Prepetition RCF Admin Agent: Ankura Trust Company

    • DIP Admin Agent: Black Diamond Commercial Finance LLC

    • DIP Lender: Orchids Investment LLC

      • Legal: Winston & Strawn LLP (Daniel McGuire) & (local) Fox Rothschild LLP (Seth Niederman)

Updated 4/1 1:42 CT

⛽️New Chapter 11 Filing - Southcross Energy Partners LP⛽️

Southcross Energy Partners LP

April 1, 2019

We’ve been noting — in “⛽️Is Oil & Gas Distress Back?⛽️“ (March 6) and “Oil and Gas Continues to Crack (Long Houston-Based Hotels)“ (March 24) that oil and gas was about to rear its ugly head right back into bankruptcy court. Almost on cue, Vanguard Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Texas on the last day of Q1 and, here, Southcross Energy Partners LP kicked off Q2.

Dallas-based Southcross Energy Partners LP is a publicly-traded company ($SXEE) that provides midstream services to nat gas producers/customers, including nat gas gathering, processing, treatment and compression and access to natural gas liquid (“NGL”) fractionation and transportation services; it also purchases and sells nat gas and NGL; its primary assets and operations are located in the Eagle Ford shale region of South Texas, though it also operates in Mississippi (sourcing power plants via its pipelines) and Alabama. It and its debtor affiliates generated $154.8mm in revenues in the three months ended 09/30/18, an 11% YOY decrease.

Why are the debtors in bankruptcy? Because natural gas prices collapsed in 2015 and have yet to really meaningfully recover — though they are up from the $1.49 low of March 4, 2016. As we write this, nat gas prices at $2.70. These prices, combined with too much leverage (particularly in comparison to competitors that flushed their debt through bankruptcy) and facility shutdowns, created strong headwinds the company simply couldn’t surmount. It now seeks to use the bankruptcy process to gain access to much needed capital and sell to a buyer to maximize value. The company does not appear to have a stalking horse bidder lined up.

The debtors have a commitment for $137.5mm of new-money post-petition financing to fund its cases. Use of proceeds? With the agreement of its secured parties, the debtors seek to pay all trade creditors in the ordinary course of business. If approved by the court, this would mean that the debtors will likely avoid having to contend with an official committee of unsecured creditors and that only the secured creditors and holders of unsecured sponsor notes would have lingering pre-petition claims — a strong power move by the debtors.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Walrath)

  • Capital Structure: $81.1mm funded ‘19 RCF (Wells Fargo Bank NA), $430.875mm ‘21 TL (Wilmington Trust NA), $17.4mm unsecured sponsor notes (Wells Fargo NA)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Marshall Heubner, Darren Klein, Steven Szanzer, Benjamin Schak) & (local) Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP (Robert Dehney, Andrew Remming, Joseph Barsalona II, Eric Moats)

    • Financial Advisor: Alvarez & Marsal LLC

    • Investment Banker: Evercore Group LLC

    • Claims Agent: KCC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition RCF & Unsecured Agent: Wells Fargo Bank NA

      • Legal: Vinson & Elkins LLP (William Wallander, Brad Foxman, Matt Pyeatt) & (local) Womble Bond Dickinson US LLP (Ericka Johnson)

    • Prepetition TL & DIP Agent ($255mm): Wilmington Trust NA

      • Legal: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP (Seth Kleinman, Alan Glantz)

    • Post-Petition Lenders and Ad Hoc Group

      • Legal: Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP (Joseph Minias, Paul Shalhoub, Leonard Klingbaum, Debra McElligott) & (local) Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP (Edmon Morton, Matthew Lunn)

    • Southcross Holdings LP

      • Legal: Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (Natasha Labovitz)

    • Stalking Horse Bidder:

Updated 9:39 CT

⛽️New Chapter 11 Filing - Vanguard Natural Resources Inc.⛽️

Vanguard Natural Resources Inc.

March 31, 2019

It’s raining SCARLET 22s! Freefall!! We still STILL have a feasibility problem!!!

Vanguard Natural Resources Inc. ($VNRR) and affiliated debtors find themselves in bankruptcy court again — the second time in nearly exactly two years (its predecessor confirmed a plan of reorganization in July 2017). And they do so in crash and burn fashion: while discussions have been happening over the last several weeks with various constituencies within the company’s capital structure, the company has no deal agreed to — merely the outlines of a restructuring term sheet. This is curious given that, under the company’s proposed DIP credit facility ($130mm, of which $65mm is new money), the company has a mere 30 days from the petition date to file a plan of reorganization and must emerge from chapter 11 within 120 days. Send hopes and prayers to the Kirkland attorneys working on this one over the next few weeks.

The debtors are an oil and natural gas company with production and development activity in the Rocky Mountain, Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast and West Texas regions of the United States; they operate in eight states across nine geologic basins. They are a remnant of the first bankruptcy which saw the predecessor entity shed $850mm of debt and wipe out the existing equity. The current capital structure looks like this:

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 1.26.16 PM.png

The second lien noteholders include Fir Tree Capital Management LP and York Capital Management Global Advisors LLC. And the company’s equity holders are:

Source: Chapter 11 Petition

Source: Chapter 11 Petition

This is another pretty cut and dry oil and gas bankruptcy given where oil and natural gas prices are. Many investors who took ownership of distressed E&P companies circa 2015-2017 were playing an option on oil and gas trading levels. That option is clearly out of the money.

Interestingly, that option was underwritten, in part, on the company’s projections. And, so, this statement by the company’s now-CEO was particularly intriguing to us and fits nicely within our recent general theme of inquiring as to whether the industry has a feasibility problem (see Paragon Offshore here, Gymboree here, and Payless here):

I understand that the Vanguard I Plan was predicated on various assumptions that ultimately did not materialize. As discussed further herein, it is my understanding that these may have included certain assumptions about: (a) commodity prices and basin differentials; (b) the pace and volume of divestments and the existence of valuable undeveloped resources to be sold; and (c) the expected returns on a number of capital investments pursued by Vanguard upon emergence—many of which have failed to come to full fruition and have challenged the Debtors’ liquidity over the last 18 months.

Former management, meet a big bad bus. You’ve just been thrown under it.

Under bus.gif

In fact, as if saying it wasn’t enough, the new CEO spared PETITION the trouble of having to dive into the 2017 filings to see just how badly these guys botched their liquidity projections:

Source: First Day Declaration

Source: First Day Declaration

The following compounded matters: (a) mismanagement of the company’s hedge book, (b) borrowing base redeterminations, (c) refi roadshows met with “tepid” interest, (d) a series of asset sales that failed to live up to expectations — both in terms of time to completion and proceeds, and (e) capital investments that “delivered lower economic returns than expected.” It’s almost as if distressed investors who sit on boards of directors and hire their own operators have absolutely no effing clue how to run an oil and gas company. Who knew?

And so the company came dangerously close to tripping a series of covenants. That’s when the company brought in Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Evercore Group LLC and re-engaged Opportune LLP to help the company. The various advisors engaged in a number of processes that would have provided the company with crucial liquidity — including new financing, bank facility amendments and various discreet asset sales. But all prospective parties quickly realized that the assets…well…for lack of a better description…kinda, like, suck.

And so nothing could get done. Well, other than the company obtaining a commitment for $130mm of DIP financing to fund the cases (of which only $65mm is new money). What happens from here will be interesting to watch. Suffice it to say, distressed-investors-cum-oil-and-gas-owners are learning a ROUGH lesson.

And, once again, we have to ask whether company projections ought to get a bit more scrutiny than they have to date.

  • Jurisdiction: S.D. of Texas (Judge Jones)

  • Capital Structure: $677.7mm RCF and $123.4mm TL (Citibank NA), $80.7mm second lien notes (Delaware Trust Company)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (James Sprayragen, Christopher Marcus, Brian Schartz, Aparna Yenamandra, Richard Howell, Yates French, Kent Hayden, Timothy Bow, James Fedell, Allyson Smith Weinhouse) & (local) Blank Rome LLP (James Grogan, Philip Guffy)

    • Board of Directors: Randall Albert, Patrick Bartels Jr., W. Greg Dunlevy, Joseph Hurliman Jr., Andrew Schultz, R. Robert Sloan, L. Spencer Wells

    • Financial Advisor: Opportune LLP

    • Investment Banker: Evercore Group LLC

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • DIP Agent ($130mm, $65mm New Money): Citibank NA

      • Legal: Latham & Watkins LLP (Mitchell Seider, Annemarie Reilly, Adam Malatesta) & (local) Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP (Timothy Davidson II, Joseph Rovira)

    • Ad Hoc Group of First Lien Lenders

      • Legal: Brown Rudnick LLP (Robert Stark, Steven Pohl, Justin Cunningham, Alexander Fraser) & (local) Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP (Patricia Tomasco)

    • Second Lien Ad Hoc Group (Fir Tree Capital Management LP, York Capital Management Global Advisors LLC)

      • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Brian Resnick, Benjamin Schak) & (local) Porter Hedges LLP (John Higgins, Eric English, M. Shane Johnson)

Updated 4/1 at 12:25pm (#48)

New Chapter 11 Filing - Sizmek Inc.

Sizmek Inc.

March 29, 2019

New York-based Sizmek Inc., an online advertising campaign management and distribution platform for advertisers, media agencies, and publishers, filed for bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York. The company indicates that it lost access to capital when Cerberus Business Finance LLC…took control of the Company's bank accounts and sought to divert customer receivables…” and filed, in large part, to have access to its lenders’ cash collateral. Major creditors include players in the ad world, including Google Inc. ($GOOGL), Facebook Inc. ($FB) and AOL ($VZ)(yes, AOL is still, technically, a “player” in something).

The company is a portfolio company of private equity firm, Vector Capital, which took the company private — merely two years after its IPO — via a 2016 all-cash tender offer for the outstanding shares of common stock for $3.90/share, a 65% premium over the then-30-day weighted average trading price. Kirkland & Ellis LLP represented Vector in the transaction.* In 2017, the company made a $145mm acquisition of Rocket Fuel, another struggling adtech company. And then shortly thereafter, AdExchanger reported merely two years later that Vector was looking to divest the company.

We’ll have more on this once the docket is updated.

*Interestingly, after filing, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP replaced Kirkland & Ellis LLP as debtors’ counsel in these cases.

  • Jurisdiction: S.D. of New York (Judge )

  • Capital Structure: $172mm funded debt

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (James Sprayragen, Stephen Hessler, Marc Kieselstein, Justin Bernbrock)

    • Replacement Legal: Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP (Steven Reisman, Cindi Giglio, Jerry Hall, Peter Siddiqui)

    • Board of Directors: Eugene Davis, Mark Grether, Tom Smith, Marc Heimowitz

    • Financial Advisor: FTI Consulting Inc.

    • Claims Agent: Stretto (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition Secured Agent: Cerberus Business Finance LLC

      • Legal: Klee Tuchin Bogdanoff & Stern LLP (David Fidler, Whitman Holt, Michael Tuchin, Thomas Patterson)

Updated 4/1/19 6:08 CT (#10)

🚁New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - PHI Inc.🚁

PHI Inc.

March 15, 2019

It’s pretty rare to see a company affected by macro factors in two industries. And, yet, Louisiana-based PHI Inc. ($PHI) and four affiliates filed for bankruptcy in the Northern District of Texas, marking the fourth bankruptcy fallout in the helicopter services space following Waypoint LeasingErickson Incorporated and CHC Group. The company is a leading provider of transportation services to both the oil and gas industry (including, for example, Shell Oil CompanyBP America Production CompanyExxonMobil Production Co.ConocoPhillips CompanyENI Petroleum and the recently-bankrupt Fieldwood Energyand the medical services industry. It operates 238 aircraft, 213 which are company-owned and 119 of which are dedicated to oil and gas operations and 111 of which are dedicated to medical services. The company generated $675mm in revenue in 2018 — with much of that revenue coming from fixed-term contracts.

The company strongly asserts that operational failures are not a cause of its bankruptcy — a clear cut message to the market which might otherwise be concerned about safety and reliability. The issue here, the company notes, is the balance sheet, especially a March 15 2019 maturity of the company’s $500mm in unsecured notes. Despite alleged efforts to address this maturity with the company’s (fresh out of the womb) secured term loan holder and an ad hoc group of unsecured noteholders, the company was unable to do so.

The broader issue, however, is that the industry may be ripe for consolidation. Back in 2017, the company acquired the offshore business of HNZ Group Inc. This transaction expanded the company’s capacity to more international geographies. But given the dearth of offshore oil and gas production activity of late and intense competition in the space, there might be a need for more industry-wide M&A. The company notes:

As a result of this prolonged cyclical downturn in the industry, oil and gas exploration projects have been reduced significantly by the Company’s customers. Indeed, many customers have significantly reduced the number of helicopters used for their operations and have utilized this time instead to drive major changes in their offshore businesses, which have in turn drastically reduced revenues to PHI’s O&G business segment in the Gulf of Mexico. And while the price of crude oil slowly began to recover in 2018, the volatility in the market continues to drive uncertainty and negatively impact the scope and volume of services requested from service providers such as PHI.

This is simple supply and demand:

The effect of the downturn in the oil and gas industry has been felt by nearly all companies in the helicopter service industry. The downturn created an oversaturation of helicopters in the market, significantly impacting service companies’ utilization and yields. Indeed, this domino effect on the industry has required helicopter operators, like their customers, to initiate their own cost-cutting measures, including reducing fleet size and requesting rental reductions on leased aircraft.

Had these issues been isolated to the oil and gas space, the company would not have been in as bad shape considering that 38% of its revenue is attributable to medical services. But that segment also experienced trouble on account of…:

…weather-related issues and delays, changes in labor costs, and an increase in patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid (as opposed to commercial insurers), which resulted in slower and reduced collections, given that reimbursement rates from public insurance are significantly lower than those from commercial insurers or self-pay.

Compounding matters are laws and regulations that prohibit the debtors from refusing service to patients who are unable to pay. This creates an inherently risky business model dynamic. And it hindered company efforts to sell the business line to pay down debt.

Taken together, these issues are challenging enough. Tack on $700mm of debt, the inability to refi out its maturity, AND the inability to corral lenders to agree on a consensual deleveraging (which included a failed tender offer) and you have yet another freefall helicopter bankruptcy. Now the company will leverage the bankruptcy “breathing spell” and lower voting thresholds provided by the Bankruptcy Code to come to an agreement with its lenders on a plan of reorganization.

*****

That is, if agreement can be had. Suffice it to say, things were far from consensual in the lead up to (and at) the first day hearing in the case. To point, the Delaware Trust Companyas trustee for the senior unsecured notes, filed an objection to the company’s CASH MANAGEMENT motion because…well…there is no DIP Motion to object to. “Why is that,” you ask? Good question…

The debtors levered up their balance sheet in the lead-up to PHI’s well-known maturity. The debtors replaced their ABL in September with the $130mm term loan provided by Al Gonsoulin, the company’s CEO, Board Chairman and controlling shareholder. Thereafter — and by “thereafter,” we mean TWO DAYS BEFORE THE BANKRUPTCY FILING — the company layered another $70mm of secured debt onto the company, encumbering previously unencumbered aircraft and granting Mr. Gonsoulin a second lien. This is some savage balance sheet wizardry that has the effect of (a) priming the unsecured creditors and likely meaningfully affecting their recoveries and (b) securing Mr. Gonsoulin’s future with the company (and economic upside). Making matters worse, the trustee argues that the company made no real effort to shop the financing nor actively engage with the ad hoc committee of noteholders on the terms of a financing or restructuring; it doesn’t dispute, however, that the company had $70mm of availability under its indenture.

So what happened next? Over the course of a two day hearing, witnesses offered testimony about the pre-petition negotiations and financing process (or lack thereof) — again, in the context of a cash management motion. We love when sh*t gets creative! The lawyers for the company and the trustee hurled accusations and threats, the CEO was called a “patriot” (how, even if true, that is applicable to this context is anyone’s guess), and, ultimately, the judge didn’t care one iota about any of the trustee’s witness testimony and blessed the debtors’ motion subject to the company providing the trustee with weekly financial reporting. In other words, while this routine first day hearing was anything but, the result was par for the course.

Expect more fireworks as the case proceeds. Prospective counsel to the eventual official committee of unsecured creditors is salivating as we speak.

  • Jurisdiction: N.D. of Texas (Judge Hale)

  • Capital Structure: $130mm ‘20 senior secured term loan (Thirty Two LLC), $70mm secured term loan (Blue Torch Capital LP), $500 million ‘19 unsecured 5.25% senior notes

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: DLA Piper US LLP (Daniel Prieto, Thomas Califano, Daniel Simon, David Avraham, Tara Nair)

    • Legal (corporate): Jones Walker LLP

    • Financial Advisor: FTI Consulting Inc. (Robert Del Genio, Michael Healy)

    • Investment Banker: Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc.

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition TL & DIP Lender: Blue Torch Capital LP

    • Ad Hoc Committee of unsecured noteholders & Delaware Trust Company as Trustee for Senior Notes

      • Legal: Milbank LLP (Andrew LeBlanc, Dennis Dunne, Samuel Khalil) & (local) Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP (Louis Strubeck Jr., Greg Wilkes)

      • Financial Advisor: PJT Partners LP (Michael Genereaux)

    • Indenture trustee under the 5.25% Senior Notes due 2019 (Delaware Trust Company)

    • Thirty Two LLC

    • Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors (Delaware Trust Company, Oaktree Capital Management LP, Q5-R5 Trading Ltd., Regions Equipment Finance Corp., Helicopter Support Inc.)

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - F+W Media Inc.

F+W Media Inc.

March 10, 2019

WAAAAAAY back in September 2018, we highlighted in our Members’-only piece, “Online Education & ‘Community’ (Long Helen Mirren),” that esteemed author and professor Clayton Christensen was bullish about the growth of online education and bearish about colleges and universities in the US. We also wrote that Masterclass, a SF-based online education platform that gives students “access” to lessons from the likes of Helen Mirren(acting), Malcolm Gladwell (writing) and Ken Burns (documentary film making) had just raised $80mm in Series D financing, bringing its total fundraising to $160mm. Online education is growing, we noted, comporting nicely with Christensen’s thesis.

But we didn’t stop there. We counter-punched by noting the following:

Yet, not all online educational tools are killing it. Take F+W Media Inc., for instance. F+W is a New York-based private equity owned content and e-commerce company; it publishes magazines, books, digital products like e-books and e-magazines, produces online video, offers online education, and operates a variety of e-commerce channels that support the various subject matters it specializes in, e.g., arts & crafts, antiques & collectibles, and writing. Writer’s Digest is perhaps its best known product. Aspiring writers can go there for online and other resources to learn how to write.

For the last several years F+W has endeavored to shift from its legacy print business to a more digital operation; it is also beginning to show cracks. Back in January, the company’s CEO, COO and CTO left the company. A media and publishing team from FTI Consulting Inc. ($FTI) is (or at least was) embedded with new management. The company has been selling non-core assets (most recently World Tea Media). Its $125mm 6.5% first lien term loan due June 2019 was recently bid at 63 cents on the dollar (with a yield-to-worst of 74.8% — yields are inversely proportional to price), demonstrating, to put it simply, a market view that the company may not be able to pay the loan (or refinance the loan at or below the current economics) when it comes due.

Unlike MasterClass and Udacity and others, F+W didn’t start as an all-digital enterprise. The shift from a legacy print media business to a digital business is a time-consuming and costly one. Old management got that process started; new management will need to see it through, managing the company’s debt in the process. If the capital markets become less favorable and/or the business doesn’t show that the turnaround can result in meaningful revenue, the company could be F(+W)’d(emphasis added)

Nailed it.

On March 10, 2019, F+W Media Inc., a multi-media company owning and operating print and digital media platforms, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the District of Delaware along with several affiliated entities. We previously highlighted Writer’s Digest, but the company’s most successful revenue streams are its “Crafts Community” ($32.5mm of revenue in 2018) and “Artist’s Network” ($.8.7mm of revenue in 2018); it also has a book publishing business that generated $22mm in 2018. In terms of “master classes,” the bankruptcy papers provide an intimate look into just how truly difficult it is to transform a legacy print business into a digital multi-media business.

The numbers are brutal. The company notes that:

“In the years since 2015 alone, the Company’s subscribers have decreased from approximately 33.4 million to 21.5 million and the Company’s advertising revenue has decreased from $20.7 million to $13.7 million.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, reflects in concrete numbers, what many in media these days have been highlighting about the ad-based media model. The company continues:

Over the past decade, the market for subscription print periodicals of all kinds, including those published by the Company, has been in decline as an increasing amount of content has become available electronically at little or no cost to readers. In an attempt to combat this decline, the Company began looking for new sources of revenue growth and market space for its enthusiast brands. On or around 2008, the Company decided to shift its focus to e-commerce upon the belief that its enthusiast customers would purchase items from the Company related to their passions besides periodicals, such as craft and writing supplies. With its large library of niche information for its hobbyist customers, the Company believed it was well-positioned to make this transition.

What’s interesting is that, rather than monetize their “Communities” directly, the company sought to pursue an expensive merchandising strategy that required a significant amount of upfront investment. The company writes:

In connection with this new approach, the Company took on various additional obligations across its distribution channel, including purchasing the merchandise it would sell online, storing merchandise in leased warehouses, marketing merchandise on websites, fulfilling orders, and responding to customer service inquiries. Unfortunately, these additional obligations came at a tremendous cost to the Company, both in terms of monetary loss and the deterioration of customer relationships.

In other words, rather than compete as a media company that would serve (and monetize) its various niche audiences, the company apparently sought to use its media as a marketing arm for physical products — in essence, competing with the likes of Amazon Inc. ($AMZN)Walmart Inc. ($WMT) and other specialty hobbyist retailers. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the company’s execution apparently sucked sh*t:

As a consequence of this shift in strategic approach, the Company was required to enter into various technology contracts which increased capital expenditures by 385% in 2017 alone. And, because the Company had ventured into fields in which it lacked expertise, it soon realized that the technology used on the Company’s websites was unnecessary or flawed, resulting in customer service issues that significantly damaged the Company’s reputation and relationship with its customers. By example, in 2018 in the crafts business alone, the Company spent approximately $6 million on its efforts to sell craft ecommerce and generated only $3 million in revenue.

Last we checked, spending $2 to make $1 isn’t good business. Well, unless you’re Uber or Lyft, we suppose. But those are transformative visionary companies (or so the narrative goes). Here? We’re talking about arts and crafts. 🙈

As if that cash burn wasn’t bad enough, in 2013 the company entered into a $135mm secured credit facility ($125mm TL; $10mm RCF) to fund its operations. By 2017, the company owed $99mm in debt and was in default of certain covenants (remember those?) under the facility. Luckily, it had some forgiving lenders. And by “forgiving,” we mean lenders who were willing to equitize the loan, reduce the company’s indebtedness by $100mm and issue a new amended and restated credit facility of $35mm (as well as provide a new $15mm tranche) — all in exchange for a mere 97% of the company’s equity (and some nice fees, we imagine). Savage!

As if the spend $2 to make $1 thing wasn’t enough to exhibit that management wasn’t, uh, “managing” so well, there’s this:

The Company utilized its improved liquidity position as a result of the Restructuring to continue its efforts to evolve from a legacy print business to an e-commerce business. However, largely as a result of mismanagement, the Company exhausted the entire $15 million of the new funding it received in the six (6) months following the Restructuring. In those six (6) months, the Company’s management dramatically increased spending on technology contracts, merchandise to store in warehouses, and staffing while the Company was faltering and revenue was declining. The Company’s decision to focus on e-commerce and deemphasize print and digital publishing accelerated the decline of the Company’s publishing business, and the resources spent on technology hurt the Company’s viability because the technology was flawed and customers often had issues with the websites.

What happened next? Well, management paid themselves millions upon millions of dollars in bonuses! Ok, no, just kidding but ask yourself: would you have really been surprised if that were so?? Instead, apparently the board of directors awoke from a long slumber and decided to FINALLY sh*tcan the management team. The board brought in a new CEO and hired FTI Consulting Inc. ($FTI) to help right the ship. They quickly discovered that the e-commerce channel was sinking the business (PETITION Note: this is precisely why many small startup businesses build their e-commerce platforms on top of the likes of Shopify Inc. ($SHOP) — to avoid precisely the e-commerce startup costs and issues F+W experienced here.).

Here is where you insert the standard operational restructuring playbook. Someone built out a 13-week cash flow model and it showed that the company was bleeding cash. Therefore, people got fired and certain discreet assets got sold. The lenders, of course, took some of those sale proceeds to setoff some of their debt. The company then refreshed the 13-week cash flow model and…lo and behold…it was still effed! Why? It still carried product inventory and had to pay for storage, it was paying for more lease space than it needed, and its migration of e-commerce to partnerships with third party vendors, while profitable, didn’t have meaningful enough margin (particularly after factoring in marketing expenses). So:

Realizing that periodic asset sales are not a long-term operational solution, the Company’s board requested alternative strategies for 2019, ranging from a full liquidation to selling a significant portion of the Company’s assets to help stabilize operations. Ultimately, the Company determined that the only viable alternative, which would allow it to survive while providing relief from its obligations, was to pursue a sale transaction within the context of a chapter 11 filing.

Greenhill & Co. Inc. ($GHL) is advising the company with respect to a sale of the book publishing business. FTI is handling the sale of the company’s Communities business. The company hopes both processes are consummated by the end of May and middle of June, respectively. The company secured an $8mm DIP credit facility to fund the cases.

And that DIP ended up being the source of some controversy at the First Day hearing. Yesterday morning, Judge Gross reportedly rebuked the lenders for seeking a 20% closing fee on the $8mm DIP; he suggested 10%. Per The Wall Street Journal:

Judge Gross said he didn’t want to play “chicken” with the lenders, but that he didn’t believe they should use the bankruptcy financing to recoup what they were owed before the chapter 11 filing.

Wow. Finally some activist push-back on excessive bankruptcy fees! Better late than never.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Gross)

  • Capital Structure:

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP (Pauline Morgan, Kenneth Enos, Elizabeth Justison, Allison Mielke, Jared Kochenash)

    • Financial Advisor: FTI Consulting Inc. (Michael Healy)

    • Investment Banker: Greenhill & Co.

    • Claims Agent: Epiq Bankruptcy Solutions LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition & Postpetition DIP Agent ($8mm): Fortress Credit Co. LLC)

      • Legal: Halperin Battaglia Benzija LLP (Alan Halperin, Walter Benzija, Julie Goldberg) & (local) Bielili & Klauder LLC (David Klauder)

    • DIP Lenders: Drawbridge Special Opportunities Fund LP, New F&W Media M Holdings Corp LLC, PBB Investments III LLC, CION Investment Corporation, Ellington Management Group, or affiliates thereof to be determined.

Updated 8:18am CT

New Chapter 11 Filing - CTI Foods LLC

CTI Foods LLC

March 10, 2019

CTI Foods LLC, a large independent provider of “custom food solutions” to major hamburger, sandwich and Mexican restaurant chains…wait, stop. “Custom food solutions"? Seriously? Does everything need to be made to sound technological these days? Homies produce hamburgers, cooked sausage patties, grilled chicken, shredded beef and chicken, fajita meat, ham, Philly steak, dry sausage, beans, soups, macaroni & cheese, chili, sauces, and other sheet pan and retail meals through seven production facilities; they service QSRs and fast casual restaurants, including four of the top six hamburger restaurant chains, four of the top six sandwich chains, and “the top Mexican restaurant chain.” Queremos Taco Bell?!? Anyway, that’s basically it: let’s not over-complicate matters.

In any event, lenders must love custom food solutions because they’ve offered a solution of their own…to the company’s balance sheet. The company filed a prepackaged bankruptcy in the District of Delaware with substantial numbers of holders of first lien and second lien term loans hopping on board in support of the plan of reorganization (though not enough second lien term lenders to establish a fully consensual plan by bankruptcy thresholds). The filing is predicated upon accomplishing the results set forth in this handy-dandy chart:

Source: First Day Declaration

Source: First Day Declaration

Pursuant to the plan, the first lien term lenders will receive some take-back paper and equity in the reorganized company, the second lenders will either equitize or cancel all $140mm of second lien term loan claims and existing equity will get wiped out. Trade creditors will ride through unimpaired. The company has secured a $155mm DIP commitment, the proceeds of which will be used, in part, to take out the ABL, and provide liquidity to fund the cases. Remaining funds will roll into an exit facility for the company to use post-emergence from bankruptcy. Just one thing: the chart shows a $50mm exit ABL and yet the company’s papers note a new $110mm exit ABL. Insert confusion here. 🤔

Confusion aside, this is a real business: the debtors apparently generated $1.2b of revenue in 2018 (and $29mm of EBITDA). Unfortunately, the private equity bros realized that back in 2013 when Thomas H. Lee Partners and Goldman Sachs & Co. acquired it from Littlejohn & Co. LLC. Per the company, the “current capital structure is the result of organic growth coupled with…strategic acquisitions….” So, uh, the capital structure didn’t fund the sponsor-to-sponsor purchase? Or is that “organic growth?” We suspect the former because, well, private equity, right? Debt is their jam. Oh, and the intercreditor agreement dated June 28, 2013 — mere months after the transaction — reflects that the debt was in place then rather than subsequently added to finance “organic growth.”* This is why PE firms pay firms like Weil the big bucks: first-class subterfuge. But…busted!

A quick aside, buried in paragraph 55 of the First Day Declaration is a cursory statement about the Restructuring Committee’s investigation into the company PE overlords. The company states:

On November 20, 2018, the Restructuring Committee separately retained Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP (“Katten”) as independent counsel. Specifically, the Restructuring Committee, with the assistance of Katten, conducted a thorough investigation into whether any potentially material claims or causes of action existed against directors, officers, or existing equity holders of the Debtors, including Goldman Sachs and T.H. Lee. Katten made extensive diligence requests to the Debtors, reviewed materials provided in response, interviewed several potential witnesses, and prepared a report for the Restructuring Committee evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of any such potential claims or causes of action. Ultimately, based on that investigation and the report prepared in connection therewith, the Restructuring Committee determined it was unlikely that any such meritorious claims or causes of action exist that ought to be pursued.

It’s a good thing trade is riding through: there likely won’t be an official committee of unsecured creditors to test this conclusion.

So, aside from the company-crushing transaction-induced debt placed on the company by its private equity overlords, why is the company in bankruptcy? Here’s where you really need to read between the lines: above we noted that the company “service[s] QSRs and fast casual restaurants, including four of the top six hamburger restaurant chains, four of the top six sandwich chains, and ‘the top Mexican restaurant chain.’” “Service” is the key word. We don’t see the word “exclusively” preceding it. Here’s the company:

CTI’s recent profitability decline is attributable in part to an increase in the number of protein processors in competitive segments of the food manufacturing and foodservice industries, which led to losses in customer shares and a decrease in new business for the Company. Simultaneously … the Company’s costs have increased over time. The combination of increased competition and increased costs resulted in lower volumes and narrower profit margins. (emphasis added)

Costs increased for a number of reasons — integration of new facilities, etc. — but the most disturbing one is food quality control. Per the company:

The Company’s profitability also suffered from food quality incidents in 2017 and 2018. Although the Company quickly identified and remedied the issues, those occurrences led to a loss of customer sales and to the incurrence of significant costs in remedying the situation and ensuring the integrity of products manufactured on a go-forward basis. These costs, albeit temporary, have collectively had a material impact on the Company’s recent profitability levels.

Yikes. That’s no bueno.

Now, there is some good news here. First, the company appears to have improved EBITDA in Q4 ‘18. Second, this plan is mostly consensual. And, third, the prepackaged nature of this plan will help the company accomplish their restructuring in a speedy six weeks, as planned. Food safety depends on it.

*$25mm of the principal amount of first lien term loans outstanding is attributable to a 2016 acquisition. To be fair.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Sontchi)

  • Capital Structure: see above.     

  • Company Professionals:

    • Legal: Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP (Matthew Barr, Ronit Berkovich, Lauren Tauro, Clifford Carlson, David Li, Michael Godbe) & (local) Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP (M. Blake Cleary, Jaime Luton Chapman, Shane Reil)

    • Legal to Restructuring Committee: Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

    • Financial Advisor/CRO: AlixPartners LLP (Kent Percy)

    • Investment Banker: Centerview Partners LLC (Karn Chopra)

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on company name above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition Credit Agreement Agent: Wells Fargo Bank NA

      • Legal: Otterbourg PC (Andrew Kramer) & (local) Richards Layton & Finger PA (Mark Collins, Jason Madron)

    • Ad Hoc Group of Term Lenders & DIP Term Agent ($155mm): Cortland Capital Market Services LLC

      • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Damian Schaible, Michelle McGreal, Stephen Piraino) & (local) Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP (Robert Dehney, Curtis Miller, Matthew Harvey)

    • ABL DIP & Exit Agent ($235mm): Barclays Bank PC

      • Legal: Sherman & Sterling LLP (Joel Moss, Jordan Wishnew) & (local) Richards Layton & Finger PA (Mark Collins, Jason Madron)

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Air Force Village West Inc. (d/b/a Altavita Village)

Air Force Village West Inc. (d/b/a Altavita Village)

March 10, 2019

Another day, another continuing care retirement community in bankruptcy. Here, Air Force Village West Inc. (d/b/a Altavita Village), a California non-profit corporation with 361 residents filed for bankruptcy in the Central District of California. We’ve covered how CCRCs operate in some recent bankruptcy filings (e.g., 😷New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Mayflower Communities Inc. (d/b/a The Barrington of Carmel)😷 and 😷New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - SQLC Senior Living Center at Corpus Christi Inc. (d/b/a Mirador)😷) and so we don’t necessarily see the point in repeating the business basics here. Suffice it to say: the CCRC business model requires some modifications. “The company has been operating at a loss and cannot pay its liabilities as they mature.” No sh*t.

Naturally, debt is part of the issue. The company owes $66mm in alleged secured indebtedness to its prepetition lenders; it has been in payment default since March 2017. The lenders subsequently sued for the appointment of a receiver and succeeded. After the receiver was in place, the receiver, the debtor and the lenders pursued a two-year sale process with two bankers (failed) and, then later, Cushman & Wakefield (“C&W”). C&W was able to locate a stalking horse bidder, Westmont Development LP, an affiliate of Westmont Living Inc., for a 363 sale of the debtor’s assets while in bankruptcy. In light of the fact that the company already pursued a robust sale process, it seeks to consummate the sale transaction by June 2019.

  • Jurisdiction: C.D. of California (Judge )

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Dentons US LLP (Samuel Maziel, Tania Moyron, Gary Marsh, Bryan Bates)

    • Investment Banker: Cushman & Wakefield US Inc.

    • Claims Agent: KCC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Z Gallerie LLC

Z Gallerie LLC

March 10, 2019

In January's "What to Make of the Credit Cycle. Part 25. (Long Warning Signs)," we discussed the leveraged loan market and, among many other things, highlighted the then-recent reports that KKR was planning to cut its leveraged loan exposure.

It seems pretty safe to say that this decision was partially informed by KKR's recent experience managing the $2b ex-Blackstone loan fund, Franklin Square Investment Corp. According to reporting by The Financial Times back in December, the Franklin Square fund (now FS-KKR Capital Corp) wrote down five loans between April and December last year. That must be lovely news for investors in the publicly-traded business development corporation ($FSK). Per the FT:

"Executives at Blackstone’s GSO credit arm approved the original loans. But KKR is now responsible for collecting the cash and assessing the loans’ value, and has taken a much gloomier view of their prospects. It has placed 28 percent of the portfolio on a list of deals that require close monitoring or are at risk of losing money, according to securities filings.  

'KKR is a formidable group, but they probably weren’t anticipating the losses that came forth in the GSO book,' said Finian O’Shea, an analyst who covers private credit funds for Wells Fargo."

Strangely, this is obviously good news for professionals with restructuring experience:

"KKR’s credit division has been hiring restructuring specialists to beef up a dedicated team charged with salvaging value from troubled investments — a move that executives there say was planned when the FS-KKR portfolio began to deteriorate. KKR declined to comment, as did the fund’s co-manager, Franklin Square Investments."

Those specialists might get increasingly busy. FSK owned, as of December 31, 2018, first lien loans in Acosta Inc. (written down by the BDC's board to "fair value" from $19.2mm to $11.8mm), Charlotte Russe (yikes), CTI Foods (which was written down by $900k), and Z Gallerie (which had been written down from $31.9mm to $11.3mm). It also owns second lien paper in Belk Inc. (written down from $119.1mm to $94.7mm), CTI Foods, and Spencer Gifts LLC (written down from $30mm to $25.6mm). And subordinated debt in Sungard (written down by 80%). The BDC's equity holdings in Charlotte Russe and Nine West are now obviously worthless. 

Lots of people are focused on BDCs given lending standards during this long bull run. If that portfolio is any indication, they should be. 

*****

Speaking of Z Gallerie, it filed for bankruptcy last weekend in the District of Delaware. It is a specialty-niche furniture retailer that has 76 stores across select states in the US. And this is its second trip into bankruptcy in 10 years. While we think that's too large a spread to really be a "chapter 22," its an ignominious feat nonetheless. 

So another retailer in bankruptcy. We're all getting bored of this. And we're also getting bored of private equity firms helping drive companies into the ground. In this instance, Brentwood Associates, a $2.4b Los Angeles-based private equity purchased a 70% stake in the company in 2014 (and took two seats on the company's board of directors). At the time, Brentwood had this to say about the transaction:*

"Z Gallerie is a differentiated retailer in the home furnishings market with a very unique merchandise assortment. We see a significant opportunity to accelerate growth of the current retail store base."

But…well...not so much. This statement by the company's CRO is a pretty damning assessment of Brentwood's claim that they "build[] category-defining businesss through sustained, accelerated growth”:

"Following a transaction in 2014 in which the Zeidens sold majority control of Z Gallerie to Brentwood Associates (“Brentwood”), Z Gallerie’s overall performance has declined significantly. The reasons for these declines are mostly self-imposed: (i) a store footprint expansion did not meet performance targets, (ii) the addition of the Atlanta distribution center disrupted operations and increased costs, and (iii) the failure to timely invest enough capital in their e-commerce platform limited its growth. These missteps were exacerbated by macroeconomic trends in the brick and mortar retail industry and lower housing starts. As a result, net revenue and EBITDA declined during fiscal year 2018. With Z Gallerie’s current cash balances of less than $2 million, and no availability under its secured credit facilities, the commencement of these chapter 11 cases became necessary to ensure access to capital going forward."

 That's brutal. Something tells us that Z Gallerie is going to make a swift disappearance from Brentwood's website.

Anyway, the company includes all kinds of optimistic language in its bankruptcy filing papers about how, after it closes 17 stores and executes on its business plan, it will be poised for success. It intends to enhance its e-commerce (currently 20% of sales), revamp its Atlanta distribution center, launch social media campaigns (long Facebook), and better train its employees (long Toys R Us PTSD). The company claims numbers have already been on the upswing since the holidays, including February same-store sales up 5% YOY. 

Current optimism notwithstanding, make no mistake: this is yet another instance of value destruction. This is the company's balance sheet (at least some of which dates back to 2014 and is related to Brentwood's purchase):

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 9.15.20 AM.png

That $91mm senior secured term loan? Yeah, that's where KKR sits. 

The company has a commitment for a $28mm DIP credit facility from KeyBank which will effectively rollup the senior secured revolving loans and provide $8mm in new money. 

The company has already filed a "hot potato" plan of reorganization — in other words, the lenders will take the company if they have to, but they don't really want to, and so they're happy to pass it on — and have a banker actively trying to pass it on (Lazard Middle Market) — to some other schmuck who thinks they can give it a go. In other words, similar to the plan proposed earlier this year in the Shopko case, this plan provides for the equitization of the allowed secured revolver and term loan claims IF the company is otherwise unable to find a buyer to take it off their hands and pay down some of their loans with cash. The company filed bid procedures along with the plan; it does not have a stalking horse bidder lined up. The company estimates a 4 month timeline to complete its bankruptcy.

We can't imagine that KKR is stoked to own this company going forward. And we can only imagine what kind of projections the company will put forth to convince the court that this thing is actually feasible: the plan has a blank space for the exit facility so that exit structure is also apparently a work in progress.

In any event, given recent loan underwriting standards, KKR, and other BDCs, might want to get used to owning credits they never expected to. 

*Brentwood was represented in the transaction by Kirkland & Ellis LLP, now counsel to the company. The company drops in a footnote that any potential claims against Brentwood and its two directors will be conducted by Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP, a firm we’re sure was hired with absolutely zero input by Kirkland and/or the two Brentwood directors. Two independent directors are currently sitting on the board.

  • Jurisdiction: District of Delaware (Judge: Laurie S. Silverstein)

  • Capital Structure: see above

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (Joshua Sussberg, Justin Bernbrock, Joshua Altman, Emily Kehoe) & (local) Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP (Dominic Pacetti, Michael Yurkewicz)

    • Financial Advisor: Berkeley Research Group LLC (Mark Weinsten)

    • Investment Banker: Lazard Middle Market LLC (Jason Cohen)

    • Claims Agent: Bankruptcy Management Solutions, Inc. d/b/a/ Stretto (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • DIP Agent: Keybank NA

      • Legal: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC (Mary Caloway, Mark Pfeiffer)

    • KKR Credit Advisors US LLC

      • Legal: Proskauer Rose LLP (Vincent Indelicato, Christ Theodoridis) & (local) Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP (Robert Dehney, Matthew Talmo)

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - DIESEL USA, Inc.

DIESEL USA, Inc.

March 5, 2019

Three things immediately occurred to us when we saw the news that Diesel USA Inc. filed for bankruptcy in the District of Delaware:

  1. That makes perfect sense — Jersey Shore went off the air a long time ago;

  2. This is “The Mattress Firm Effect” in action — a retailer using a quick trip in bankruptcy to, on an expedited basis, flush out some burdensome leases and otherwise leave parties in interest unimpaired; and

  3. More surprising than the company filing for bankruptcy is the law firm filing it for bankruptcy. Arent Fox LLP, while a fine firm for sure, isn’t exactly known for its debtor-side chops. Just saying.

The numbers around this one are…well…interesting. The company’s brick-and-mortar retail operations consist of 28 retail store locations in 11 states, comprised of 17 full-price retail stores and 11 factory outlet stores. Net sales were:

  • In 2014: $83mm for full-price retail and $42mm for outlet (Total: $125mm); and

  • In 2018: $38mm for full-price retail and $34.5mm for outlet (Total: $72.5mm).

In terms of percentages:

  • In 2014: brick and mortar represented 64% of net sales; and

  • In 2018: brick and mortar represented 70% of net sales.

We see a couple of significant problems here.

Despite the superlatives that the company’s CRO generously uses to describe the company, i.e., “cutting-edge,” and “cultural icon,” the numbers reflect a BRAND — let alone the business — in significant trouble. Sure, net sales are down generally, but the distribution has gotten wildly askew. The numbers reflect a bare reality: Diesel simply isn't a brand people will pay full price for anymore. This couldn’t be more stark. And that’s a big problem when the company is (or was) party to expensive height-of-the-real-estate-market leases in prime locations like Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Diesel, quite simply, isn’t “Fifth Avenue,” let alone “Madison Avenue.”* We’re not convinced the company is being realistic when it says that it has “retained a loyal customer base.” The numbers plainly say otherwise. Moreover, in an age where digital sales are increasingly more important, the business has become MORE dependent on brick-and-mortar as opposed to its wholesale and e-commerce channels.**

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s the company’s CRO:

…in 2015 prior management implemented a strategic initiative that was focused on repositioning Diesel stores and products in premium locations and with premium customers so as to place them side-by-side with other premium fashion brands across the retail, online, and wholesale platforms. Unfortunately, since its implementation, the Debtor’s net sales have significantly decreased while its losses have significantly increased.

The market has spoken: Diesel is, according to the market, simply not “premium.”

And by “market” we also mean wholesalers. The company opted to stop distributing its products to wholesale partners “that were deemed not to fit the premium image.” Now, we can only imagine that included discount retailers. Basically, SOME OF THE RETAILERS WHO HAVE PERFORMED THE BEST OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. But wait: it gets even worse: the wholesale customers the company DID retain pursued voluminous “chargebacks.” Per the company:

As is common in the retail industry, the Debtor provides certain customers with allowances for markdowns, returns, damages, discounts, and cooperative marketing programs (collectively, the “Chargebacks”). If the Debtor’s customers fail to sell the Debtor’s products, they generally have the right to return the goods at cost or issue Chargebacks, which are netted against the Debtor’s accounts receivable. Due to mounting Chargebacks from wholesale customers, the Debtor was forced to significantly reduce its wholesale activities in recent years.

Basically, nobody is buying this sh*t. Not in stores. Not in wholesale.

And, yet, the company holds premium leases:

The primary means of implementing the 2015 strategy was to reposition the Debtor’s full-price retail and outlet stores to “premium”, high-profile, and high-visibility locations, which was executed by opening certain new stores and relocating others to “premium” locations while closing others deemed not to fit the new strategic positioning model. The result was, despite the losses suffered in connection with the Fifth Avenue store, management’s negotiation and entry into several expensive, long-term leases for certain of the Debtor’s retail locations, such as the Debtor’s “Flagship” store on Madison Avenue, which do not expire by their terms until 2024-2026. Of course, it was then (and remains today) an inopportune time to make long-term commitments to costly retail leases and the significantly increased lease expenses have not been offset by increased sales, which, in fact, have dropped precipitously.

…numerous of the Debtor’s stores are producing heavy losses. The Debtor’s unprofitable stores combined to produce negative EBITDA of approximately $10.7 million in 2018, nearly all of which flowed from full-price retail stores. The Debtor’s profitable stores are not enough to off-set the losses, as the 17 fullprice stores combined to produce negative EBITDA of approximately $8.7 million in 2018.

Now, the company does indicate that certain (seemingly outlet) stores remain profitable, as do the wholesale and e-commerce operations.*** So, there’s that. New management is in place and their plan includes (a) using the BK to negotiate with landlords, shutter some locations, shutter and relocate others, opening new smaller stores and refit existing locations; (b) deploying influencer marketing generally and aiming more efforts towards females (and hoping and praying that athleisure — a term we didn’t see ONCE in the entire first day declaration — doesn’t continue to hold sway and steer people away from jeans, generally);**** (c) growing e-commerce; and (d) revitalizing the wholesale business with key selective wholesale partners. This plan is meant to take hold in the next three years and “will require significant capital investments.” (PETITION Note: cue the chapter 22 preparation). The company intends to effectuate its new business plan via a plan of reorganization pursuant to which it will reject certain executory contracts. All in, the company hopes to be confirmed in roughly 5 weeks. Aggressive! But, like Mattress Firm, trade creditors are “current” and there’s no debt otherwise, so the schedule isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

But this is the part that REALLY gets us. If you’ve been reading PETITION long enough — particularly our “We Have a Feasibility Problem” series — you know by now that you ought to be AWFULLY SKEPTICAL of management team’s rosy projections. Per the company:

The Debtor’s projections indicate that the Reorganization Business Plan will return the Debtor to stand-alone profitability by 2021 assuming successful store closures through this Chapter 11 Case, thereby ensuring its ability to continue operating as a going-concern, saving over 300 jobs, and creating new ones through the new store openings.

Generally, we’ll take the under. Though, we have to say: at least they’re not audaciously projecting a miraculous profit in 2019.

How will they achieve all of these lofty goals? The company’s foreign parent will invest $36mm over the three-year period of the business plan because…well…why the hell not? Everyone loves a Hail Mary.


*The company suffered from an ill-advised and poorly-timed real estate spending spree. Between 2008 and 2015, right as brick-and-mortar really started to decline and e-commerce expand, the company expended $90mm on leases. As for Fifth Avenue, per the company, “the Debtor’s store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which opened in 2008 and closed in 2014, by itself received approximately $18 million in capital expenditures during its tenure while generating substantial losses.

**The company doesn’t appear to have put much into its e-commerce growth. While e-commerce now represents 12% of net sales, sales are only incrementally higher in absolute numbers (from $8mm in 2014 to $12mm in 2018). The wholesale channel, on the other hand, has gone in the opposite direction. Net sales went from $61mm (2014) to $19mm (2018) and now represent only 19% of net sales (down from 32%).

***It seems, though, that outlet stores, wholesale and e-commerce resulted in negative $2mm EBITDA if the math from the above quote is correct. Curious.

****Score for Facebook Inc. ($FB)!


  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Walrath)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Arent Fox LLP (George Angelich, David Mayo, Phillip Khezri) & (local) Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP (Pauline Morgan, Kenneth Enos, Travis Buchanan)

    • Claims Agent: Bankruptcy Management Solutions d/b/a Stretto (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:



New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Weatherly Oil & Gas LLC

Weatherly Oil & Gas LLC

February 28, 2019

Restructuring in the oil and gas space has been quiet of late but we here at PETITION suspect that may change very soon. While oil has been on the rise (in the mid-60s at the time of this writing) — and there are both potential political and supply-side roadblocks growing domestically that may help push prices upward — there nevertheless appear to be cracks forming. We’ve been noting that Jones Energy ($JONE), Sanchez Energy Corporation ($SN), Southcross Energy Partners LP ($SXEE), and Vanguard Natural Resources all look distressed and headed towards chapter 11 bankruptcy filings (or a chapter 22 filing, as the case may be with Vanguard). Recent price action for several other companies also reflects some doubt about the oil and gas space.

Take, for instance, Alta Mesa Holdings LP ($AMR). Per The Houston Chronicle:

Houston oil and gas company Alta Mesa Resources is struggling to stay afloat, laying off roughly one-fourth of its employees and writing down the value of its assets by $3.1 billion because of admitted failures in its financial reporting.

The company's three top executives, CEO Hal Chappelle, Chief Operating Officer Michael Ellis and Chief Financial Officer Michael McCabe, resigned abruptly a few weeks ago.

The company disclosed in an SEC filing that the write-down stems from “ineffective internal control over financial reporting due to an identified material weakness.” We’re conjecturing here, but that sure sounds like diplomatic Texan for “we effed up pretty badly…perhaps even fraudulently.” Consequently, the plaintiffs’ lawyers are circling this puppy like vultures and, well, this:

Indeed, the company’s $500mm 7.875% senior unsecured bonds due 2024 got UTTERLY HOUSED, dipping down over 40% in a week and approximately 50% versus a month ago. This chart is BRUTAL:

Source: TRACE

Source: TRACE

We’ll take a deeper dive into Alta Mesa soon for our Members: if you’re not a Member well, we hope you revel in ignorance.

The price action of once-bankrupt Chaparral Energy Inc. ($CHAP) is also notable: it saw its stock collapse over 20% and its $300mm 8.75% senior unsecured notes due 2023 fall nearly 17%. More debt BRUTALITY here:

Source: TRACE

Source: TRACE

Long trips to Texas.

Here, Weatherly Oil & Gas LLC is an oil and gas acquisition and exploration company focused on Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas; it operates over 800 well bores (over half shut-in or non-producing) on 200k net acres. The company blames continued low commodity prices and fundamentally changed lending practices for its bankruptcy. Specifically, the company notes:

Lending practices moved from a reserves-based approach to a cash-flow based approach, limiting access to capital growth and forcing the Debtor to utilize free cash flow to pay down senior debt instead of making other capital expenditures.

Without capital and with an expensive production focus, the company struggled in the face of a glut of competition.

The company has a transaction support agreement pursuant to which it intends to sell its assets to multiple purchasers and then pursue a plan of liquidation. Angelo Gordon Energy Servicer LLC, the company’s prepetition lender, will provide a $1mm DIP to fund the cases. Halliburton Energy Services is the company’s largest unsecured creditor with an approximate $2.9mm claim.

  • Jurisdiction: S.D. of Texas (Judge Isgur)

  • Capital Structure: $90.2mm term loan (Angelo Gordon Energy Servicer LLC)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Jackson Walker LLP (Matthew Cavenaugh, Kristhy Peguero, Vienna Anaya)

    • Financial Advisor/CRO: Ankura Consulting Group LLC (Scott Pinsonnault)

    • Marketing Agent: TenOaks Energy Partners LLC

    • Claims Agent: Epiq Corporate Restructuring LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Prepetition Term Lender & DIP Lender ($1mm): Angelo Gordon Energy Servicer LLC

      • Legal: Vinson & Elkins LLP (Harry Perrin, David Meyer, Steven Zundell, Michael Garza)

    • Buyer: BRG Lone Star, Ltd.

    • Buyer: EnSight IV Energy Partners, LLC

    • Sponsor: Weatherly East Texas LLC

      • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (Gregory Pesce, Brett Newman)

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Windstream Holdings Inc.

Windstream Holdings Inc.

February 25, 2019

See here for our write-up on Winstream Holdings Inc.

  • Jurisdiction: S.D. of New York (Judge Drain)

  • Capital Structure: see below.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Kirkland & Ellis LLP (James Sprayragen, Stephen Hessler, Ross Kwasteniet, Marc Kieselstein, Brad Weiland, Cristine Pirro Schwarzman, John Luze, Neda Davanipour)

    • Legal (Board of Directors): Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP (Louis Strubeck Jr., James Copeland, Kristian Gluck)

    • Financial Advisor: Alvarez & Marsal LLC

    • Investment Banker: PJT Partners LP

    • Claims Agent: KCC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • DIP Lender ($500mm TL, $500mm RCF): Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

    • Prepetition 10.5% and 9% Notes Indenture Trustee: Wilmington Trust NA

      • Legal: Reed Smith LLP (Jason Angelo)

    • Prepetition TL and RCF Agent: JPMorgan Chase Bank NA

      • Legal: Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (Sandeep Qusba, Nicholas Baker, Jamie Fell)

    • Ad Hoc Group of Second Lien Noteholders

      • Legal: Milbank LLP

      • Financial Advisor: Houlihan Lokey Capital

    • Ad Hoc Group of First Lien Term Lenders

      • Legal: Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP (Brian Hermann, Andrew Rosenberg, Samuel Lovett, Michael Rudnick)

      • Financial Advisor: Evercore

    • Midwest Noteholders

      • Legal: Shearman & Sterling LLP

    • Uniti Group Inc.

      • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Marshall Huebner, Eli Vonnegut, James Millerman)

      • Financial Advisor: Rothschild & Co.

    • Large Unsecured Creditor: AT&T Corp.

      • Legal: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP (Brian Lohan, Ginger Clements, Peta Gordon) & AT&T (James Grudus)

    • Large Unsecured Creditor: Verizon Communications Inc.

      • Legal: Stinson Leonard Street LLP (Darrell Clark, Tracey Ohm)

    • Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors (AT&T Services Inc., Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO CLC, VeloCloud Networks Inc., Crown Castle Fiber, LEC Services Inc., UMB Bank)

      • Legal: Morrison & Foerster LLP (Lorenzo Marinuzzi, Brett Miller, Todd Goren, Jennifer Marines, Erica Richards)

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 9.04.55 PM.png

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Aceto Corporation

Aceto Corporation

February 19, 2019

In November in “🎬🎥Moviepass Falters; Market Chuckles🎬🎥,” we highlighted how Aceto Corporation ($ACET) had announced that it was pursuing strategic alternatives on the heels of obtaining a waiver of covenant non-compliance. It appears that its pursuit was (somewhat) fruitful.

Yesterday the company filed for bankruptcy in the District of New Jersey with intent to sell its chemicals business assets to New Mountain Capital for $338mm in cash, plus the assumption of certain liabilities (subject to adjustments). It also intends to sell another subsidiary, Rising Pharmaceuticals, while in bankruptcy and prior to the end of its fiscal year on June 30, 2019.

The company’s pre-petition capital structure consists of:

  • an $85mm 9.5%-11.5% secured revolving loan (Wells Fargo Bank NA);

  • a $120mm 11.5% secured term loan (as part of the same A/R Credit Agreement as the above); and

  • $143.75mm of 2% convertible senior notes due 2020 (Citibank NA).

Carry the one, add the two: that’s a total of $348.75mm of debt. Which means that the purchase price of the chemicals business doesn’t even cover the company’s debt. Here’s to hoping the Rising Pharmaceuticals business fetches a good price. To be fair, the company did end its fiscal 2018 with $103.9mm of cash.

Pre-petition lenders led by pre-petition agent, Wells Fargo Bank NA, have committed to providing the company with a $60mm DIP credit facility.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of New Jersey (Judge )

  • Capital Structure: see above.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Lowenstein Sandler LLP (Kenneth Rosen, Michael Etkin, Paul Kizel, Jeffrey Cohen, Philip Gross)

    • Financial Advisor/CFO: AlixPartners LLP (Rebecca Roof)

    • Investment Banker: PJT Partners LP

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • DIP Agent and Pre-petition Agent: Wells Fargo Bank NA

      • Legal: McGuireWoods LLP (Kenneth Noble)

New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Pernix Therapeutics/Pernix Sleep Inc.

Pernix Therapeutics/Pernix Sleep Inc.

February 18, 2019

In our January 30th Members’-only briefing entitled “😢Who Will Remember Things Remembered?😢 ,” we included a segment subtitled “Pharma Continues to Show Distress (Long Opioid-Related BK)” in which we discussed how Pernix Therapeutics Holdings Inc. ($PTX) looked like an imminent bankruptcy candidate. We noted how the company had previously staved off bankruptcy thanks to a refinancing transaction with Highbridge Capital Management. That refinancing now looks like a perfectly-executed loan-to-own strategy: Phoenix Top Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Highbridge, will serve as the stalking horse bidder of the company’s assets in exchange for $75.6mm plus the assumption of certain liabilities. Highbridge will also, after a competitive process pitted against other debtholders like Deerfield Management Company LP, provide the Debtors with a $34.1mm DIP facility — of which $15mm is new money, $5mm is an accordian facility, and the rest is a roll-up of the pre-petition ABL.

  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge [ ])

  • Capital Structure: see link above.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (Marshall Huebner, Eli Vonnegut, Christopher Robertson) & (local) Landis Rath & Cobb LLP (Adam Landis, Kerri Mumford, Jennifer Cree, Nicolas Jenner)

    • Financial Advisor: Guggenheim Partners LLC (Stuart Erickson)

    • Investment Banker: Ernst & Young LLP

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Stalking Horse Purchaser: Phoenix Top Holdings LLC (a Highbridge Capital Management affiliate)

    • Large debtholder: Deerfield Management Company LP

      • Legal: Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

    • DIP Agent: Cantor Fitzgerald Securities

      • Legal: Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP (Sarah Ward)

Updated: 2/19/19 at 8:51 CT

👢New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy & CCAA Filing - Payless👢

Payless Holdings LLC

February 18, 2019

Update coming on Wednesday.

  • Jurisdiction: E.D. of Missouri (Judge Surratt-States)

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP (Ira Dizengoff, Meredith Lahaie, Kevin Zuzolo, Julie Thompson, Caitlin Griffin, Patrick Chen, Abid Qureshi) & (local) Armstrong Teasdale LLC (Richard Engel Jr., Erin Edelman, John Willard)

    • Legal (Canadian CCAA): Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

    • Legal (Independent Managers): Seward & Kissel LLP

    • Board of Directors: Heath Freeman, Martin Wade, R. Joseph Fuchs, Scott Vogel, Patrick Bartels

    • Financial Advisor: Ankura Consulting Group LLC (Stephen Marotta, Adrian Frankum, Swapna Deshpande)

    • Investment Banker: PJ Soloman LP (Derek Pitts)

    • Asset Disposition Advisor: Malfitano Advisors LLC (Joseph Malfitano)

    • Liquidators: Great American Group LLC and Tiger Capital Group LLC

    • Corporate Communications Consultant: Reevemark LLC

    • Real Estate Advisors: A&G Realty Partners

    • CCAA Monitor: FTI Consulting Inc.

    • CCAA Monitor

      • Legal: Bennett Jones

    • Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Parties in Interest:

    • Pre-petition ABL Agent: Wells Fargo NA

    • Pre-petition Term Agent: Cortland Products Corp.

🔋New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - 1515 GEEnergy Holding Co. LLC🔋

1515 GEEnergy Holding Co. LLC

February 14, 2019

Though it took a backseat to the overall oil and gas downturn of a few years ago, the power market has also experienced its share of distress and bankruptcy of late: Illinois Power, ExGen Texas Power, Panda Temple Power, FirstEnergy, Westinghouse, and GenOn are just a few of the power companies that found themselves in a bankruptcy court. Now we can add 1515-Geenergy Holding Co. LLC and BBPC, LLC d/b/a Great Eastern Energy, providers of (i) natural gas and electricity to customers in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and (ii) electricity to customers in Connecticut, to the list. (together, the “Debtors”).

What we love about bankruptcy filings is that, unbeknownst to many, they often provide a pithy overview of an industry that is highly informative without getting too into the weeds. Indeed, in the Debtors chapter 11 papers, they provide a solid history of the decades-long process of deregulated power provision. In summary (and per the debtors):

  • In 1978, Congress passed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”), which laid the groundwork for deregulation and competition by opening wholesale power markets to non-utility producers of electricity.

  • Following this, in the 80s and 90s, state legislatures passed laws designed to allow competitive retail sale and supply in the nat gas markets.

  • Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 1992 which specifically promoted greater competition in the bulk power market. This began to de-monopolize the utility industry by allowing independent power producers equal access to the utilities’ transmission grid.

  • By 1996, FERC implemented Orders 888 and 889, which were intended to remove impediments to competition in wholesale trade and bring more efficient lower-cost power to the nation’s electricity customers.

  • President George W. Bush later signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which decreased limitations on utility companies’ ability to merge or be owned by financial holdings / non-utility companies. This led to a wave of mergers and consolidation within the utility industry.

  • Today, more than 20 states have at least partially deregulated electricity markets whereby energy customers may choose between their incumbent local utility and an array of independent, competitive suppliers. This is commonly referred to as a “deregulated” or “competitive” power market.

All of this, of course, created opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of newly opened markets. That’s where the Debtors come in. BBPC started serving nat gas to customers in 2000, leveraging its relationships with various commodity supply companies, pipelines and local utility companies for the purchase, delivery and distribution of power and natural gas to their customers. The debtors acquire customers via various marketing channels, including, among other things, an indirect sales team, a network of hundreds of independent brokers. The debtors have approximately 49k commercial customers and 5k residential customers.

So, why is the company now in bankruptcy? Per the Company:

The competitive retail electric power industry is characterized by high degrees of both fragmentation, competition, and customer attrition because power providers compete primarily on price and have little else available to differentiate their products and services. Particularly in years with high volatility in weather and energy prices, customers paying high electricity and gas bills will tend to seek out other competitive retail electric providers, resulting in higher attrition rates. Also, larger independent retail energy providers have been active in acquiring customer books of their competitors.

More than that, though, is the fact that customers are no longer f*cking idiots about how they get electric and gas service. Indeed, the company notes that they are “becoming more and more sophisticated.” It’s amazing what competition and the democratization of information that’s attendant thereto can do for consumers. With more options and pricing plans to choose from, the debtors have been feeling the effects of price compression. Moreover, this bankruptcy is Google’s damn fault. Per the company:

Small consumers are also using energy-efficient appliances and devices, adopting green building technologies, and taking other actions that help protect the environment, but also lower demand for energy products.

All of these factors converged to decrease the Debtors’ revenue and cause them to default on certain of their obligations.

We’re serious. Among the PETITION team, we own a number of Nest and other smart energy-efficient devices.

Anyway, all of this led to the debtors defaulting under their ~$60mm prepetition credit agreement with Macquarie Investments US Inc., which, after several months of forbearances meant to give the debtors an opportunity to refi out Macquarie and/or sell the company, expired under their own terms. Needless to say, the debtors weren’t successful and have filed the chapter 11 to prevent Macquarie from exercising remedies and afford themselves an opportunity to pursue a sale of substantially all of their assets.


  • Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Carey)

  • Capital Structure: ~$60mm secured credit facility (Macquarie Investments US Inc.) + $30.6mm in collateralized LOCs.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP (Morton Branzburg, Dominic Pacitti, Michael Yurkewicz) & (local) McLaughlin & Stern LLP (Steven Newburgh)

    • Financial Advisor: GlassRatner Advisory & Capital Group LLC

    • Claims Agent: Omni Management Group LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Professionals:

🚗New Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing - Total Finance Investment Inc.🚗

Total Finance Investment Inc.

February 13, 2019

We’ve been asking about distress in the automotive industry since our inception and most recently noted in “🚗The Auto Sector is Quietly Restructuring🚗 that activity is picking up in the space. Admittedly, this case isn’t exactly what we had in mind. Nevertheless, earlier this week, Total Finance Investment Inc. and Car Outlet Holding Inc. (and affiliated debtors) filed for bankruptcy in the Northern District of Illinois; the debtors are an integrated chain of buy-here pay-here used vehicle dealerships in Illinois and Wisconsin.

What does “buy-here pay-here” mean? The debtors sold used vehicles, provided financing, AND operated an insurance broker to assist customers with procurement of automobile insurance coverage from third-party insurance providers. They “specifically catered to the fast-growing and underserved population of “unbanked” and “underbanked” Hispanic consumers in Northern Illinois and Milwaukee, which historically made up approximately 70% of the Debtors’ customer base.” There’s just one problem with all of this? Competition is BRUTAL. Per the company:

In recent years, BHPH dealerships have been subject to increasing industry-wide pressures that have negatively impacted their operating results, driving a number of the Debtors’ BHPH competitors out of business. The used vehicle dealership market is highly fragmented and fiercely competitive—with approximately 1,800 used car dealerships in Illinois alone—and the Debtors historically competed with other large used car dealerships like CarMax and DriveTime, as well as other BHPH operations. The fragmented nature of the industry and relatively low barriers to entry have led to steep competition between dealerships, putting significant downward pressure on the margins BHPH dealerships earn on vehicle sales. Further, as a result of a protracted period of increased capital availability, indirect auto lenders such as banks, credit unions, and finance companies have in recent years moved to originate subprime auto loans and offer attractive financing terms to customers with lower than average credit scores, putting pressure on BHPH operators’ market share among their traditional customer base.

Because, like, why not? Nothing has ever gone wrong when there has been excessive competition fiercely pursuing the subprime market. 🙈Ironically, the day before this filing, The Washington Post reported that 7mm Americans have, to the surprise of economists, stopped paying their auto loans. Whooooops. Per the WP:

The data show that most of the borrowers whose auto loans have recently moved into delinquency are people younger than 30 years old and people with low credit scores. Eight percent of borrowers with credit scores below 620 — otherwise known as subprime — went from good standing to delinquent on their auto loans in the fourth quarter of 2018.

No. Bueno. Anyway, back to the debtors. Read this part and tell us you don’t suffer PTSD circa-2008:

…capital markets became increasingly accessible for indirect auto lenders, many of which began to originate subprime loans and offer attractive financing terms to borrowers that historically had been overwhelmingly BHPH customers. The Debtors’ prior management team responded to the change in market conditions by providing larger loans with longer terms, accepting smaller down payments, and accepting transactions with increasingly negative equity in order to increase sales volume. The shift to offering riskier loans to subprime customers ultimately led to the Debtors experiencing historically high delinquency rates and losses beginning in the second half of 2015.

But wait. There’s more:

In addition to increased competition in the auto lending industry, the Debtors have also incurred significant expenses to ensure compliance with new regulations enacted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Furthermore, the political climate following the 2016 presidential election has had a negative impact on the spending habits of the Debtors’ traditional customer base in a manner that negatively impacted the Debtors’ operating results.

The debtors, therefore, suffered a consolidated pre-tax loss of approximately $29.9mm. MAGA!!!

The company has been trying to improve cash flows and operating results for years. One major initiative included, as far back as 2016, tightening underwriting standards to reduce consumer finance portfolio losses. We sure hope that there are others who took similar steps given the Washington Post report. But we digress.

Back in 2017, the debtors also received an $84mm equity infusion from Marubeni Corporation. Nevertheless, the debtors continued to hemorrhage to the point of compromising compliance with certain financial covenants under their senior secured debt facility with BMO Harris Bank NA. Thereafter, the company entered into a series of forbearance agreements with BMO as it attempted to figure out either a refinancing or an asset sale. In the end, the debtors obtained a restructuring support agreement and filed for bankruptcy to liquidate the used auto business and transfer its auto loan servicing business to a third-party servicer (PETITION Note: earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the mortgage servicing business is en fuego — notwithstanding the Ditech Holding Corporation bankruptcy (see here). We wonder: what sort of demand is there for subprime auto loan servicing businesses?). BMO Harris will fund the estates with a $4mm DIP credit facility.

So we’re left with this question: is this chapter 11 filing the canary in the coal mine for subprime auto lenders?

  • Jurisdiction: N.D. of Illinois (Judge Doyle)

  • Capital Structure: see below.

  • Professionals:

    • Legal: Sidley Austin LLP (Bojan Guzina, William Evanoff, Jackson Garvey)

    • Conflicts Legal: Togut Segal & Segal LLP

    • Financial Advisor: Portage Point Partners LLC

    • Interim Management: Development Specialists Inc.

    • Investment Banker: Keefe Bruyette & Woods and Miller Buckfire & Co. LLC

    • Claims Agent: KCC (*click on the link above for free docket access)

  • Other Professionals:

    • Prepetition Lender: BMO Harris Bank NA

      • Legal: Chapman and Cutler LLP (David Audley, Mia D’Andrea)

Source: First Day Declaration

Source: First Day Declaration