Where Did All The PE-Backed Bankruptcies Go?

Newspaper publisher Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 1. It was the 59th private equity-backed company to do so in 2009, compared to just 49 in all of 2008.

But then a funny thing happened. Or, more specifically, didn’t happen. No other PE-backed companies filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

Two companies announced plans to file for bankruptcty protection as part of prepackaged restructurings — NTK Holdings (THL Partners) and Lazy Days’ RV Center Inc. (Bruckman Rosser Sherrill ) — but it’s unclear if either will do so before September ends.

This might just be a timing quirk, but it also might reflect both an improving economy and that a lot of the PE-backed shakeout has already occured (save for the 2006-2008 mega-LBOs whose debt comes due in 2011-2013). I’m not quite ready to jump aboard Glenn Hutchins’ “golden age” train, but we’re a far way from where we were just a couple months back, when it seemed like this year’s buyout tally would actually double last year’s. Now, it looks like it will be around a 20% increase, with far fewer second-half bankruptcies in 2009 than in 2008. It’s one of the few economic slowdowns that no one minds…