The Dodger bankruptcy is a tragedy for all involved. All except for Highbridge Principal Strategies, the Wall Street hedge fund that stands to earn $10 million in fees from the deal.
Highbridge's managing director, Kevin Griffin, agreed last month to pony up $150 million in bankruptcy financing.
According to a court filing today, McCourt seems to have struck out with six other potential lenders before Griffin finally threw him a lifeline. (The details of those six other contacts are blacked out, but the filing states that Highbridge was the only one to even offer written terms.)
That gave Griffin the leverage to set the terms…
Not surprisingly, they're not great for the Dodgers. Highbridge is charging a 10% interest rate on top of its $10 million in fees. Assuming the Dodgers draw the entire amount, that's a $25 million payday on a $150 million loan (or 17%, or roughly what Visa would charge). In a court filing today, McCourt's lawyers pretty much acknowledge that Highbridge has them over a barrel:
“To be sure, the Dodgers naturally would prefer that Highbridge provide financing at lower interest rates and fees than those negotiated at arms length…” the attorneys wrote. “Unfortunately… no better financial terms are available from any other source.”
The committee that represents the Dodger creditors today called Highbridge's fees “excessive,” especially considering that “Highbridge has almost no risk that it will not be paid in full.”
So if you're Kevin Griffin, this deal boils down to two words: Ka-ching. Good to see that somebody's getting something out of this.
A judge in Delaware is expected to decide on Wednesday to either approve
the Highbridge deal or force McCourt to accept better terms from Major League Baseball. The latter
would hasten McCourt's exit, while the former would keep him around
for a while.
That potentially sets up Kevin Griffin as the personal savior of Frank McCourt.
So who is this guy? From a recent interview he and a partner gave to an investment newsletter, he sounds like a Wall Street version of Scott Boras.
“The key for us is… for us to set the terms,” they said.
In court papers filed today, Frank's lawyers said that Griffin has been in “on-again, off-again financing talks with the Dodgers since the Summer of 2010.”
In the interview, Griffin and partner Mike Patterson said that the fund is best suited to a company with either “complexity to its business model” or a “fatigued bank group.” Check, and check. (And what a great phrase: “fatigued bank group.” Next time you are turned down for a loan, blame “banker fatigue.”)
“We are focused on situations where borrowers need an alternative to the capital markets,” they said.
Compare that to a sales pitch from a payday lender: “Check 'n Go was founded with one mission: provide financial solutions to problems traditional institutions (like banks) ignore.”
Highbridge referred a call to its PR firm, which explained that Highbridge is a “global alternative asset manager based in New York.”
One more thing: Griffin and McCourt are both Hoyas, having both studied finance at Georgetown.