LightSquared secured a judge’s approval on Thursday for its restructuring plan, an elusive milestone for Philip Falcone’s ambitious wireless venture that went bankrupt nearly three years ago.
The approved plan was the latest in at least a dozen proposals put before the court.
Ends bankruptcy battle between Ergen and Falcone
The judge’s approval marks the end of the bankruptcy battle between Charlie Ergen and Falcone over LightSquared and its wireless spectrum. For instance, last July, Falcone’s hedge fund alleged that DISH Network Corp. and Ergen violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act when Ergen purchased the debt of LightSquared, its wireless broadband company that filed for bankruptcy protection while DISH was bidding for it.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley C. Chapman has signed off the latest proposal paving the way for the wireless company to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
The plan envisages top lender Charlie Ergen, DISH Network chairman, to be paid in full in cash, while LightSquared’s investors, including Fortress Investment Group and Centerbridge Partners, will get the keys to the defunct wireless company upon exit of the Chapter 11 process.
The approved plan was the latest in at least twelve proposals put before the court. For instance, last July, LightSquared disclosed a $3.05 billion new restructuring plan including investments from private equity firms. As part of the new restructuring plan, LightSquared was to receive $1.75 billion in new funding from private equity firms, Cerberus Capital Management L.P and Fortress Investment Group LLC and JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Most of these dozen proposals were scrapped by the company, while another was rejected by Judge Chapman last May for being unfair to Ergen, who amassed a pile of LightSquared’s bank debt and at one point tried to buy the company. Ergen demanded cash for his more than $1 billion in debt.
Ergen’s demand to be compensated in cash for his claims led to a rival proposal, backed by Solus Alternative Management LP and Cerberus Capital Management LP. However, their plan was dropped once LightSquared agreed to buy back preferred stock and debt owned by the funds.
“A new day” for LightSquared
Ergen threw his support behind the latest proposal, when LightSquared finally relented and agreed to his demand last week.
Ergen will be paid through a $1.52 billion new loan arranged by Jefferies & Co, which had offered financing in other LightSquared proposals throughout the case.
LightSquared CEO Doug Smith termed the approval of the latest bankruptcy-exit plan a “new day” for the company and its employees. He said: “This has been a long journey, and today’s ruling will allow us to emerge from Chapter 11 well-capitalized and better positioned to achieve our goals”.
Once LightSquared fully exits Chapter 11, the restructured firm will be adequately financed, and the battle to finally use its significant wireless spectrum assets will begin anew.