Remember The Weather Channel deal? For $3.5 billion, Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and NBC Universal purchased the media business, with debt from insiders like Bain Capital’s Sankaty Advisors, Blackstone’s GSO Capital, and NBC parent GE Commercial Finance. The partnership with NBC Universal is exemplary of the new age of buyouts—a number of PE firms have been partnering with strategic buyers as a way to get deals done.
Well, turns out that wasn’t the only “New Age of Buyouts” lesson to learn from The Weather Channel deal. This week I read that the deal’s debt, provided by Deutsche Bank, among others, was “pre-placed” before the deal even closed. Meaning, Deutsche took care to underwrite most of it in advance, selling the paper off to private equity firms and hedge funds. According to Debtwire, this technique isn’t new—Carlyle did it with Booz Allen and PQ Corp, underwritten by Bank of America and UBS, respectively.
I asked Randy Schwimmer of mid-market lending house Churchill Capital if this will be more common in deals to come, and the answer I got was affirmative. “Essentially the large cap deals are taking a page out of the traditional middle market syndication strategy, which is to club deals up,” he said.
All you need to do is find a large, market-leading business in a good, defensible sector, find a way to maintain a BB rating and LIBOR spread in the 400 neighborhood, and you’ve got yourself a buyout! What are some other deals that have used pre-placed club lending?