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Lehman Still Doing Deals in a Second Life on Wall Street

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Things that refuse to die include Dracula, fungus, Jason from the “Friday the 13th” movies, zombies — and Lehman Brothers.

You would probably like to forget Lehman in the wake of its collapse in 2008, an event that set off a near Armageddon in the financial world. Lehman filed for bankruptcy and soon afterward its investment banking arm was sold to Barclays of Britain for $250 million. That same week, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch and most likely overpaid by tens of billions.

Like all good horror villains, Lehman still exists, sort of. The Lehman Brothers estate is in its fourth year of administration in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. It’s the largest bankruptcy in history, involving the liquidation of a $117 billion estate. As of October, the estate had made substantial progress settling almost $100 billion in claims.

Yet Lehman still has about $24 billion in assets to unwind. Not only is Lehman the largest bankruptcy in history, it is possibly the most complex, with multiple proceedings, including bankruptcies in Britain, the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. The Lehman estate has paid well over $1 billion in fees and expenses.

The Lehman estate is even scheduled to exit bankruptcy soon, but don’t think this will end the story. Lehman is looking to get bigger.

The focus of Lehman’s efforts is Archstone-Smith, the same entity that played a major role in bringing down Lehman. In 2007, Lehman’s real estate geniuses partnered with Tishman Speyer to pay $22.2 billion for Archstone-Smith, an apartment owner. The deal quickly went sour, leaving billions of debt on Lehman’s balance sheet that it was unable to sell.

While the exact reasons for Lehman’s demise remain murky, there is little doubt that its huge amount of mortgage debt from the Archstone acquisition and other deals contributed to the market’s loss of confidence in the firm.

After a series of defaults and restructurings, the Lehman estate now owns 47 percent of Archstone. The remaining 53 percent is held by Bank of America and Barclays, two lenders in the initial acquisition who foreclosed on their interest.

The three co-owners are in a fight over the future of Archstone. Not surprisingly, the banks want to get rid of their interest as soon as possible. Real estate isn’t their business, and frankly they could use the money.


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Lehman Still Doing Deals in a Second Life on Wall Street

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