July 27, 2012
Mike Spector has a great piece in today’s WSJ explaining how private equity firm Sun Capital retained ownership of Friendly’s after taking the iconic ice cream parlor chain into bankruptcy. Normally, owners lose their investment in a bankruptcy. But Sun arranged for another of its affiliates to provide a loan to keep Friendly’s operating while in bankruptcy, and so became its major creditor as well as its owner. As Spector noted, ‘ That put Sun first in line to be repaid in a bankruptcy, allowing the buyout shop to reacquire Friendly’s with a $75 million “credit bid”—essentially using debt owed it as currency to bid for the company.” Sun retained ownership of Friendly’s but with fewer liabilities – including getting rid of its employees’ pensions, which it off loaded onto a government agency when Friendly’s declared bankruptcy. This is not the first time a company owned by Sun has declared bankruptcy, only to emerge from bankruptcy still owned by Sun. Sun has used this tactic in other cases as well. The PE firm managed to pull off the same deal with Anchor Blue, Big 10 Tires, and Fluid Routing.