Sam Zell Buys Tribune With Leveraged Debt

Reddit

So far, the lenders have proved remarkably robust. Once they can do no more damage to one group of borrowers… they move on to the next! Techs, telecoms, dotcoms, subprime… now they are falling all over each other to lend money to private equity deals.

Investors’ “appetite for risk rises,” reports Bloomberg – focusing on the growing appeal of futures contracts over boring old bonds. With all the trillions of dollars worth of derivatives already passing through the world’s financial digestion, a trade war with China getting underway… and perhaps a real war with Iran (Russian intelligence sources say it’s brewing in a matter of days)… you’d think it would be time to push away from the table and light a cigar. But no… they’re still chowing down. “Deals… deals… deals – give me more deals!”

Sam Zell just scored a big one – buying the Tribune (NYSE: TRB) company. It took $8 billion to swing the deal, according to the press reports. But Zell put in only $315 of his own money. The rest was ‘leveraged’ – debt, in other words. How? It’s not clear but there is speculation that Zell is using a leveraged Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). That is, he will borrow a huge amount of money through the plan and have employees vest into the stock over time as a pay back. A big attraction to the new owners would be the significant tax benefits, but what happens if the value of the company declines in the future, as it might, with all the new debt added?

We don’t know. But there is debt everywhere. If it ever gets marked down… there will be a lot of unhappy investors around. Reports also say that Tribune might invest a part of employees’ pensions in the new firm… without even seeking the beneficiaries’ permission.

Maybe lending billions to a real estate tycoon so he can buy into a newspaper business, whose sales must be under threat from the Internet, is a good financial move. Maybe it is not. We have not looked, but there is bound to be Mr. Goldman and Mr. Sachs in the deal somewhere.

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
Reddit

Comments

  1. Dear Bill Bonner ,

    I read with interest your article on Sam Zelli . The part that interests me the most is the comment about an imminent attach on Iran in the next few days (according to a source in Russian Intelligence ). As no other media source has mentioned this possibility I wonder at the veracity of your information . Does Bill Bonner have special access to Russian intelligence ?

    Comments by you , Dan denning and others along the lines of the above and the many comments on bursting bubbles that never seem to burst , makes an open minded reader start to scratch his head .
    What makes web sites like DAILY RECKONING succesful is CREDIBILITY . I’ve been reading your articles for about a month now and am starting to think the editorial staff of DAILY RECKONING might rely to much on the crystal ball ! If any organisation starts to lose the big “C” it might as well shut up shop .

    regards,

    Allen Jacobsen .

    Perth
    Western Australia

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Letters will be edited for clarity, punctuation, spelling and length. Abusive or off-topic comments will not be posted. We will not post all comments.
If you would prefer to email the editor, you can do so by sending an email to letters@dailyreckoning.com.au