Aug 9, 2010

Trib execs accused of pushing bad deal

The court examiner appointed to analyze Sam Zell's leveraged takeover of Tribune Co. has pieced together through "a tangle of e-mails, documents and recollections" a report that purports to show former and current Tribune executives used flawed revenue projections to push a through deal that was doomed to failure.

From the Trib-owned Chicago Tribune:
The densely-packed pages show participants on all sides of the deal trying to explain how a transaction weighed down by almost $13 billion in debt could unfold amid ample evidence of a collapsing economy and the steady erosion of the advertising dollars Tribune Co. thrived on.

Although only confidence flowed from deal participants in 2007, the report shows that what held the complex, two-stage transaction together was mostly fear of getting sued if it fell apart. The banks that had agreed to finance the deal wanted out, the documents show, and in the offices of
Sam Zell, the Chicago real estate magnate who orchestrated the LBO, debate ensued over whether to bail.
Desperate to unload nearly $13 billion of debt, Trib execs, with the assistance of a small valuation firm, relied on anomalous revenue projections to prove the deal would survive under its own weight. The examiner takes particular umbrage at the decision to toss a final $3.6 billion of debt on top of the load even as the economy headed toward recession and newspaper advertising dollars disappeared. The deal went through, the Tribune Co. spiraled into bankruptcy, and the deal-makers shrugged.

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