Has Michael Eisner’s patron finally put some of his cards on the table?
Angelo, Gordon & Co., the New York hedge fund co-founded by John Angelo -- one of the former Disney chief’s closest friends -- along with fellow creditor Oak Tree Management filed a reorganization plan for Tribune Co. in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware late Friday.
Even if it's not an opening play to make Eisner chairman of Tribune, it's certainly one of the most aggressive moves on the part of Angelo, (pictured, with Eisner and son), opening up a whole new new avenue of negotiations for the troubled media company.
Though there are no specific management shifts in the 99-page document, the Angelo/Oak Tree plan looks at a fundamental restructuring of Tribune's debts and creditors' claims.
If accepted, it would allow Tribune Co. to “exit bankruptcy in order to maximize the value of the Estates for all creditors and to avoid prolonging the Chapter 11 cases.” Tribune went into Chapter 11 less than a year after current company chairman Sam Zell and others took it private in December 2007. (Click here to read the whole filing.)
The Angleo/Oak Tree reorganization plan submitted to the courts Friday would move creditors' claims into a longer term litigation trust, giving everyone concerned more breathing room. Earlier this week, other creditors asked the court for permission to potentially pursue legal action against Zell and others if an agreeable settlement is not reached in the near future.
The statute of limitations will expire Dec. 8 against Zell for what is perceived as "dishonesty" and value-asset mismanagement in taking the company private in December 2007.
The Tribune was expected to have filed its own reorganization plan at the end of August; instead, Tribune CEO Randy Michaels sent an email to the company’s employees saying that talks between the company and the creditors were continuing. “Given the ongoing nature of those discussions, we have decided not to file any amendments to our plan at the present time,” he said.
Submissions to the bankruptcy mediator on legal issues surrounding the media company are due Monday. Mediation sessions between all parties are set to begin Sept. 27.
Interesting enough, unlike other recent filings by other creditors, the present management of Tribune isn't altogether opposed to the Angelo/Oak Tree plan.
In an email sent out to employees, Tribune CEO Randy Michaels said that while the company hoped the upcoming “mediation will be successful … in the event that such a plan does not gain sufficient creditor support, the general approach contained in the Oak Tree Plan may provide the next best alternative and an expeditious pathway to confirmation.”
Tribune had no further comment on the matter. Attempts by TheWrap to contact Oak Tree Management or Angelo, Gordon & Co. were not immediately returned.
The exclusive window that Tribune Co. -- owners of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, TV stations and several other properties -- had on putting together a solution to the almost 21-month case expired on Aug. 9, which means that any and all creditors could, as Oak Tree and Angelo, Gordon and Co. have done, put their own plan before the court.