AEG auction starts; Anschutz seeks bids in $10 billion range

NEW YORK, Tue Oct 9, 2012 – Billionaire Phil Anschutz has kicked off the auction of his Anschutz Entertainment Group, with an expectation that the sports and entertainment giant should draw bids in the $10 billion range, higher than previously believed, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The initial, 25-page AEG information memorandum that describes the business but has no financial information was expected to go to “dozens” of potential buyers on Monday, the sources said. The initial group of recipients is expected to include rich individuals, rivals, sovereign wealth funds, real estate firms, and private equity firms, they said.

Anschutz is likely to start signing non-disclosure agreements and send out the books with financial details by the end of the month, the sources said.

The list of potential bidders includes trade buyers such as Liberty Media Corp.; investment companies such as Guggenheim Partners LLC; private equity firms such as Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, Bain Capital LLC and Colony Capital LLC; and rich individuals such as Los Angeles biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, sources have previously said.

Bidders are likely to need to come up with bids in the “high single digit, low double digit” billion dollars to proceed to the next round, the sources said, signaling that Anschutz has a higher price expectation than previously believed.

Sources close to potential buyers had said last month that the company could fetch between $6 billion and $8 billion in a sale.

“The Anschutz Co has no comment on the sales process beyond its press release announcing the sales process,” it said in a statement on Monday. As a private owner, the Denver-based billionaire has the final say in any deal.

Anschutz said last month that it was exploring a sale of AEG and had hired Blackstone Advisory Partners to advise it on the process.

AEG, which has around 25,000 employees, has developed more than 100 entertainment venues globally, in some of the world’s largest cities such as Los Angeles, London, Berlin and Shanghai. These include the Staples Center in Los Angeles, The O2 Arena in London and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

The company also owns sports assets that include the Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team, possibly best-known for its star David Beckham, and a stake in the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers.

Washington state launches online sale of liquor stores

SEATTLE − Fri Mar 9, 2012: Washington state launched an online auction on Thursday of its 167 state-run liquor stores, which are slated for privatization on June 1 under a voter-approved ballot measure.

The ballot initiative, which passed in November, changed Washington state’s wine distribution laws, regulated alcohol advertising, created new franchise protections for liquor distributors and allowed grocery stores to sell liquor.

Washington is the first state since Prohibition to privatize its state-run liquor retail, purchasing and distribution system, which began in the 1930s.

The auction also is billed as the first-ever of its kind by the Washington State Liquor Control Board and includes simultaneous bidding for the individual state-controlled stores or all 167 outlets as one package.

What’s being auctioned today will allow interested parties rights to apply for a liquor license at current location,” board spokesman Brian Smith said. “You’re buying the right to apply for a liquor license and then purchase the right to sell at that location.”

Of the state’s 330 liquor stores, 167 are state-run. Another 163 are privately operated, mostly in rural locations, and not immediately impacted.

Bidders are vying for the right to operate the state’s current liquor outlet locations, but will have to apply to the state separately to buy liquor licenses, Smith said.

Big-box stores and grocery stores with 10,000 square feet or more do not have to bid as a result of the new initiative that will close state-run liquor stores on May 31.

Bankrupt panel maker Solyndra eyes fallback plan to sell machinery

WILMINGTON, Del. ― Solyndra LLC, the bankrupt solar panel maker that owes $500 million to the U.S. government, plans to auction off its machinery in January if it does not get bids for the entire business by an extended deadline.

Solyndra said last week that an initial deadline passed without any satisfactory bids to buy the entire company and restart production, damping hopes that some of its 1,000 idled workers might be rehired.

The company’s advisers have focused on selling the business as a whole as the best way to generate money to repay creditors.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September as panel prices have plummeted due to a glut of supply. The company had a $535 million loan that was guaranteed by the Department of Energy.

The company’s failure has been an embarrassment for the White House after President Barack Obama visited the company last year. His administration has promoted clean energy as one way to create jobs.

Solyndra will file a motion as soon as Tuesday evening for permission to sell its equipment at an auction in mid-January, Debra Grassgreen, the company’s attorney, told a bankruptcy court hearing.

If a buyer for the entire business emerges, then the machinery auction would be unnecessary, Grassgreen said.

Solyndra’s advisers still hold out hope they may strike a deal to sell the business as a going concern. Todd Neilson, Solyndra’s chief restructuring officer, said after the hearing that Solyndra did receive bids for the business, but said he would not describe them as serious bids.

Solyndra’s headquarters were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shortly after it filed for bankruptcy, and Congress is investigating if political connections played a role in approving the loan guarantee.

Neilson said he sensed that potential bidders were being driven away by politics as well as the depressed market for solar businesses.

Borders wins court approval to auction name, leases

NEW YORK ― A bankruptcy judge has authorized Borders Group Inc. to auction its name and real estate assets, the latest step in the liquidation of the nation’s second-largest bookseller.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn granted Borders’ request to hold an auction for intellectual property on Sept. 14, including its trademarks, website, brand name and customer lists. The Borders name could live on as an Internet-based brand.

Glenn also gave Borders permission to split its remaining leases into two groups and hold auctions for them on Aug. 31 and Sept. 13.

The first group consists mainly of leases that must be assumed or broken by Sept. 30, as well as leases for some smaller stores. All leases that do not fall in those categories will be auctioned in the second round. Hearings to approve the auction results would be scheduled for Sept. 8 and Sept. 20, respectively.

Borders agreed to extend the deadlines after more than 20 individual landlords and landlord groups said the initial plan gave them too little time to evaluate if buyers could meet the obligations of the acquired leases.

While recognizing that some landlords objected to the speed of the process, Glenn said it is important to move the liquidation along. He said that, if timing remains a concern for particular landlords, they can negotiate individual extensions with Borders.

Borders, long a shopping mall staple, filed for bankruptcy in February, unable to withstand rising competition from online booksellers and from sellers of e-readers such as Amazon.com Inc.’s  Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s  Nook.