💥Weinstein Buyer Goes Treasure Hunting💥

The Weinstein Company, Claire's Stores Inc. & GNC

Curated Disruption News
Midweek Freemium Briefing - 3/21/18
Read Time = 6.1 a$$-kicking minutes

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News of the Week (3 Reads)

1. The Weinstein Company (Finally) Files for Bankruptcy (Long Justice)

Oh man. So, the good news is that the company believes that its total exposure to victims (and creditors) is limited to 999 people/entities and its liability exposure is capped at $1 billion - or at least that's what one could glean from the boxes that the company checked on its chapter 11 petition. In other words, there are limits to the extent of Mr. Weinstein’s repugnance. So, there’s that.

Anyway, let's review what's "new" here without regurgitating everything the mainstream media has covered the last several months... 

The Weinstein Company's primary assets fall into three categories: (i) the film library, (ii) the television business, and (iii) the unreleased films portfolio. The library consists of 277 films and thanks to distribution rights sales internationally and to the likes of Netflix ($NFLX) and broadcast/cable networks, generates ongoing cash flow. The television business includes the Project Runway franchise and other content like Peaky Blinders, Scream and Six. The latter unreleased portfolio includes five completed films (including Benedict Cumberbatch's "Current War") and other projects in various stages of development. So, this is what is at offer.

Now, the previous pre-filing sale effort to a consortium of investors including Yucaipa, Lantern Asset Management and Maria Contreras-Sweet is well documented. As is the Attorney General of New York's complaint against the company. Neither are worth noting in detail here after months of incessant press coverage. Notably, however, Lantern Asset Management stuck with the process after its consortium partners dropped out, agreeing to become the stalking horse bidder for the assets pursuant to a proposed expedited sale process. Why expedited? In the company's words,

"It is an understatement to say that the last six months have been trying for the Company. Intense media scrutiny and various other factors have resulted in, among other things, the Company’s loss of goodwill with employees, contract counterparties, key talent and the entertainment industry at large. In order to preserve the going concern value of the Company’s Assets for the benefit of its stakeholders, the Debtors have determined that a sale of substantially all of their Assets is necessary. Further, the Debtors believe that time is of the essence and that effectuating any such sale as quickly as possible is necessary to maintain operations and preserve value for the benefit of the Debtors’ stakeholders."

Well, also, the company has no cash. Oh, and the buyer is pushing for speed as a condition to its bid. Lantern has that luxury as the remaining bidder; it is offering $310 million and the assumption of certain project-level non-recourse indebtedness (read: the debt associated with individual projects). Moreover, the company has indicated that Lantern anticipates retaining "most of the Company's employees." That's good: something positive must come out of this for those who had nothing to do with Mr. Weinstein's behavior. Speed is needed, the company argues, to prevent more employees from leaving (25% have already left). 

Some other miscellaneous facts of note in no particular order whatsoever:

  1. Top Creditor. The number one creditor is a judgment creditor to the tune of $17.36 million.

  2. It's Hard Out There for a Pimp. Boies Schiller & Flexner LLC is listed twice in the top 25 creditors. Fresh on the heels of the Theranos fraud suit, this has not been a good week for David Boies and partners. 

  3. Other Creditors. Other major creditors include Viacom International ($5.6 million), Sony Pictures Entertainment ($3.7 million), Creative Artist Agency ($1.49 million), and Disney ($1.13 million). Remember: CAA took a lot of heat for its relationship with Mr. Weinstein.

  4. It's Hard Out There for a Pimp Part II. Several law firms are listed in the top 25 creditors for accounts payable due and owing for professional services. Notably, O'Melveny & Myers LLP is listed at #10 and $3.1 million owed; it had long been rumored to be representing the company leading into the bankruptcy filing. This means, more likely than not, that Cravath was hired as an 11th hour replacement, leaving O'Melveny as a creditor. Also, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has been left hanging after conducting the internal investigation of the charges against Mr. Weinstein. That’s just cold.

  5. The Cumberbatch. "Current War," the feature starring Benedict Cumberbatch is levered up by $7mm under a production-level loan agreement with East West Bank. Nothing unusual here: just a fun fact. We'll see if Cumberbatch's star power can raise this movie above the debt and the Weinstein taint. 

  6. Timing. To the extent any bidder wants to trump Lantern Asset Management, the deadline for bids is April 30 and an auction will occur on May 2 for court approval on May 4. 

  7. #FakeNews. The New York Times and the New Yorker both get credit for taking down Mr. Weinstein and for starting the #metoo movement and Time's Up campaign. 

  8. Ramifications. The company notes that the response to Mr. Weinstein's misconduct was fast and furious including (i) Apple ceasing plans for a 10-part Elvis biopic to be produced by TWC; (ii) Lin Manuel Miranda demanding that TWC release its rights to the movie adaptation of In the Heights, (iii) Amazon ditching TWC, cancelling plans for a David O'Russell series and dropped TWC as co-producer of a Matthew Weiner series; (iv) Channing Tatum halting development of a movie with the company, and (v) Quentin Tarantino seeking a different studio for his next and ninth film, the first time he would use a studio other than TWC. 

  9. Board of Directors. 5 members went running for the exits as soon as sh*t hit the fan, including Paul Tudor Jones and Marc Lasry

  10. Lawsuits. TWC has been named in at least 9 civil actions by victims of Mr. Weinstein, including a broad federal class action, two civil actions by Mr. Weinstein himself, and 6 civil actions by contract counterparties. 

Lastly, it has been reported that any and all NDAs will be "lifted" and no longer apply. This means that those who aren't as financially able as, say, Uma Thurman and Saima Hayek, may now speak out with impunity. Hopefully this frees various women from the shackles of their memories and leads to additional revelations about an industry apparently ripe for change.


2. Claire’s Stores (Finally) Files for Bankruptcy (Short “treasure hunts”)

Claire’s Stores Inc. is the latest in a string of specialty "treasure hunt"-styled retailers to find its way into bankruptcy court. Claire and (Charming) Charlie sitting in the tree…

Anyway, in this case, the debtors, together with their 33 non-debtor affiliates, sell jewelry, accessories, and beauty products to young women/teen/tweens/kids; it has a presence in 45 nations spread throughout 7,500 company-owned stores, concession stands, and franchises. The company proudly states that "[a] Claire's store is located in approximately 99% of major shopping malls through the United States." Moreover, "[e]ach of the Debtors' store locations are leased, and are typically located in traditional shopping malls with, on average, 1,000 square foot of selling space." PETITION NOTE: this explains a lot. Hashtag, retail apocalypse.

First Day Declarations are interesting in that they are the first opportunity for a debtor-company to tell its story to the public, to parties in interest, and, significantly, to the bankruptcy judge. And this declaration is particularly interesting because, unlike many of its bankrupt specialty retail predecessors, Claire’s makes a concerted effort to delineate why its physical presence remains so critical. Seriously. The company is making no initial effort to shy away from brick-and-mortar. So what is that critical piece? Apparently, it is ear piercing. Yup, you read that right. Ok, well that and the "treasure hunt" shopping atmosphere which "simply cannot be replicated online." The company boasts about solid operating margins. and notes that, at the time of filing, it only intends to shed 95 leases. PETITION Note: has there been one retailer yet who has hit the store-closing “under”?

The company notes that it has established trust with parents and the number of pierced ears is indicative of that; it estimates that it has pierced over 100 million ears worldwide (since 1978) and 3.5 million in fiscal year 2017. While that is gimmicky and cute, the company does not note how much of the reported $212 million of EBITDA (on $1.3 billion of revenue) is related to this mind-blowing kumbaya phenomenon. Moreover, all of the trust in the world cannot overcome a capital structure with $1.9 billion of funded debt (ex-$245 million more at the non-debtor affiliate level) and $162 million in cash interest expense — especially when $1.4 billion of that funded debt matures in Q1 '19. And particularly when fewer and fewer people tend to frequent the malls that Claire’s purports to dominate. Notably, the company says ONLY the following about e-commerce: "Finally, the Claire's Group operates a digital sales platform through which new and existing customers can purchase products directly through the Claire’s® and Icing® websites and mobile application." So, as the malls go, Claire’s goes. Notably, the company makes a point that it "is growing, not shrinking, its business. The Company expects its concessions business to grow by more than 4,000 stores in 2018." Landlords take note: the company highlights its CONCESSIONS BUSINESS, which is essentially a "mini-footprint" utilizing the store-within-a-store model. In other words, this growth won't help the landlords much. 

In addition to its debt, the company notes - as a primary cause for its bankruptcy filing - that the "Debtors operate in a highly competitive market." PETITION NOTE: No effing sh*t. Mall traffic has declined 8% year-over-year and the debtors - ear-piercing demand notwithstanding - aren't impervious to this. Accordingly, revenue is down $200mm since 2014. 

To counteract these trends, the company engaged in exchange transactions back in 2016 that had the effect of stripping out intellectual property collateral, swapping out debt, and deleveraging the company by $400 million. Clearly that was a band-aid rather than a solution. And, no doubt, some other creditors are going to have something to say about that. To wit, Oaktree Capital Management has already voiced some concerns about the company’s trajectory (and Apollo’s level of control) and, we bet, will continue to do so.

Now the company purports to have a restructuring support agreement with the Ad Hoc First Lien Group which, in addition to 72% of the first lien debt, holds 8% of the second lien notes and 83% of the unsecured notes. The members of the Ad Hoc Group of First Lien Creditors have agreed to provide the Company with approximately $575 million of new capital, including financing commitments for a new $75 million asset-based lending facility, a new $250 million first lien term loan, and $250 million as a preferred equity investment. In addition, the company has lined up a Citibank-provided DIP asset-backed credit facility of $75 million (supported, seemingly, by the consenting ad hoc first lien group) and a $60 million "last out" term loan. Consequently, Claire's indicated that it expects to complete the chapter 11 process in September 2018, emerge with over $150 million of liquidity, and reduce its overall indebtedness by approximately $1.9 billion. We'll believe it when we see it. 


3. GNC Holdings Inc. & the Rise of Supplements

Speaking of a concessions business, GNC Holdings Inc. ($GNC) is a big proponent (have you been to Rite-Aid lately?) and look how well…oh, wait…nevermind.

When we last wrote about GNC back in February, the company had reported surprising earnings, margins and free cash flow; it also paid down its revolving credit facility and seemed on the verge of amending and extending its term loan. It had also just received a cash infusion commitment from a Chinese investment fund in exchange for 40% of the company. Subsequently, the company was able to amend and extend the term loan to 2021. Concurrently, the company entered into a new $100 million asset-backed loan due August 2022 and engaged in certain other capital structure machinations to obtain $275 million of asset-backed “first in, last out” term loans due December 2022. Textbook. Kicking. The. Can. Which, of course, helped the company avoid Vitamin World’s bankrupt fate. 👊 Goldman Sachs!

Meanwhile, this is what the stock looks like:

Pretty ugly. And it may get worse when you factor in what’s going on in the world of supplements, generally. What’s going on, you ask? A sh*t ton of venture capital investment, corporate cash infusion and growth.

Earlier in March, a company called Ancient Nutrition, producer of bone broth protein and collagen supplement, raised $103 million of funding from VMG Partners, Hillhouse Capital and ICONIQ Capital. Notably, the product is available throughout Chicago — just not at GNC. Rather, it is available at Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Heinan’s. Similarly, in New York City, it is predominantly found at Whole Foods, Fairway and Natural Green Market, among other places.

Supplements are going gangbusters elsewhere too. Earlier this month, Hims, an erectile dysfunction and hair loss company aimed at millennials and dubbed “Viagra, but for hipsters” (yup, you read that right), raised $40 million of funding at a $200 million valuation (kudos to GQ for creative photography). It’s distribution channel? Direct-to-consumer. Sorry GNC. Same goes for Roman and Keeps, two Hims-like competitors.

Meanwhile, The Clorox Company got into the game last week with an $700 million acquisition (3.5x sales) of Nutranext, a Florida-based wellness company that makes supplements and has a strong direct-to-consumer business. You know where you can’t get Nutranext…?

That’s right: GNC.

Perhaps those restructuring professionals disappointed by Goldman Sachs’ success in securing the refinancing should just put that GNC file in a box labeled “2021.”


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Re: Guitar Center - Long Capital Structure Rehabilitation 2.0

“Recall that Grunge came on the heals of the early nineties flash of awful white people HipHop and Bubble Gum 80's pop which were overly dependent on synth and sampling.  It returned the guitar as the lead to melody while still distancing itself from hard partying big hair rock bands so pervasive at the time.  10 million little boys wanted to be Kurt Cobain, and learned they could do it fairly easily by drop tuning their E cord.  I wonder if the problem with guitars is that kids thought they could become rockstars playing guitar hero, but didn't realize the actual instrument was a lot f*cking harder.” - Subscriber

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