Tribune Co. has brokered an agreement with its major creditors that will allow it to file its reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware by Tuesday.
The agreement, announced Thursday, would give a contentious group of junior creditors, led by distressed-debt investor Centerbridge Partners, a 7.4% slice of the company.
The agreement also is supported by the unsecured creditors committee, which is expected to drop its previously filed motion asking for permission to sue the company over the propriety of Tribune's 2007 leveraged buyout. That litigation threatened to pitch the bankruptcy case into a legal morass that could have delayed Tribune's emergence from Chapter 11.
What the agreement makes clear is what has been assumed all along. The banks and hedge funds that own the debt used to finance Tribune's leveraged buyout will end up owning nearly all of the company: 91.2%. They include J.P. Morgan and Angelo, Gordon & Co.
Another large holder of senior debt, Oaktree Capital, was not mentioned as a party to the agreement. It was not clear whether Oaktree supported it.
Sources said the announcement did not address the claims of Wilmington Trust Co., the agent for bondholders who hold $1.2 billion of Tribune's most junior notes.
Wilmington, which has complained publicly that it has been left out of the process, is expected to oppose the plan. However, it's unclear how much power Wilmington has to derail the plan or block it from being implemented.
"We're very pleased that an agreement has been reached, and we appreciate the support we've received from J.P. Morgan, Angelo, Gordon, Centerbridge and the Committee" of Unsecured Creditors, Randy Michaels, Tribune's chief executive, said in a statement. "This will enable us to file our plan prior to next Tuesday's court hearing."
Under the plan, which will be subject to a creditor vote and must be approved by the court, Tribune said it would exit bankruptcy "significantly deleveraged, with its business units intact and with adequate liquidity for operating and capital needs."
Tribune's problems stem from the leveraged buyout, which left the company saddled with $13 billion in debt.
"The plan will allow us to resolve these cases without the distraction, expense and delay of protracted litigation, which is in the best interests of Tribune and all of our constituents," Don Liebentritt, Tribune's chief legal officer, said in a statement.
Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and L.A.'s KTLA-TV Channel 5 among its many media holdings, filed for Chapter 11 protection in December 2008.
The company, which had filed for several extensions of its exclusive right to propose a reorganization plan, last week gained still more time to negotiate a compromise between its sparring senior creditors and junior bondholders by filing a motion to extend the exclusivity period until April 30.
Any such extension requires a judge's approval, and the most recent extension was set to expire March 31. But the company availed itself of a quirk in Delaware law that allowed it to file the motion and essentially freeze exclusivity until the next scheduled court hearing, which is set for Tuesday.
Rosenthal and Oneal write for the Chicago Tribune.