BANKRUPTCY WEEK AHEAD: WaMu Seeks Chapter 11 Plan Confirmation

Date : 02/10/2012 @ 12:23PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Dish Network Corp. (MM) (DISH)
Quote : 49.3  -0.02 (-0.04%) @ 8:00PM

BANKRUPTCY WEEK AHEAD: WaMu Seeks Chapter 11 Plan Confirmation

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   By Jacqueline Palank 

With more than three years of work and $7 billion on the line, Washington Mutual Inc. (WAMUQ) will try for the third time to secure court approval of its creditor-payment plan.

The company behind the biggest bank collapse in U.S. history on Thursday will ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., to sign off on its $7 billion Chapter 11 plan of reorganization. The court has already rejected two earlier proposals.

The plan, which will turn the company into an insurance operation, relies on a settlement that has stayed in place even as the plans themselves have been shot down. Washington Mutual settled an array of legal disputes with J.P. Morgan & Chase Co. (JPM), which bought Washington Mutual Bank after its failure, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which brokered the deal. The three-way settlement splits up valuable tax refunds, cash and other assets.

New to the third plan is a settlement with shareholders that had opposed the earlier plans, which promised them nothing. Now, they are slated to get equity in the restructured company.

Those lining up to oppose the plan include investors in Washington Mutual Inc.'s trust-preferred securities and die-hard litigants. Those investors claim they are entitled to a better payout than they are currently proscribed, seeking $4 billion in securities rather than stakes in the restructured company. The litigants, meanwhile, want to make sure there is enough money left over, should they prevail against the company in long-running legal battles.

Also looking to leave bankruptcy behind is TerreStar Networks Inc., which will present its Chapter 11 plan to a Manhattan judge this Tuesday.

The plan describes how TerreStar will distribute proceeds from the sale of its satellite wireless-communications business to Dish Network Corp. (DISH). Canadian regulators recently cleared the nearly $1.38 billion deal, which won bankruptcy-court approval last summer but which is still waiting for the green light from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Of the sale proceeds, the bulk--$1.34 billion--is available for creditors, while TerreStar used the rest as working capital to fund its operations.

TerreStar, a majority-owned subsidiary of TerreStar Corp. (TSTRQ), has already paid most of its secured debt. Between August and October, the company gave secured noteholders $944 million and its bankruptcy lenders $85 million. A group that financed the construction of a TerreStar satellite received $90 million.

General unsecured creditors will share in remaining sale proceeds through the liquidation trust that was set up by the plan, while equity in the company will be canceled.

In Manhattan Wednesday, Eastman Kodak Co. (EKDKQ) will move to trim its expenses by asking to give up its expensive naming rights to the Kodak Theatre.

The 20-year agreement to sponsor the theater, a modern Hollywood landmark that has been home to the Academy Awards for the past decade, requires Kodak to make "significant" annual payments toward the deal's $70 million-plus price tag. The company said the benefits of the agreement no longer outweigh the cost.

The move faces the opposition of theater owner CIM Group, which questioned Kodak's timing. The theater is slated to host the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 84th annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26.

"The invitations and advertisements for the 2012 Academy Awards show are out. They cannot be recalled. The signage has been ordered," CIM Group said. "It simply is too late to turn back and disassociate Kodak from the Academy Awards show."

The real-estate firm added that, if the court lets Kodak break ties with the theater, it should at least wait until the end of the year so it has time to find a new sponsor, take down the many signs with Kodak's names and make new signs.

"For 12 years, CIM and its predecessor worked with Kodak to engrain the 'Kodak Theatre' name into the public's mind," the firm said. "CIM cannot now, in a matter of weeks, undo what has been built."

(Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review covers news about distressed companies and those under bankruptcy protection.)

-By Jacqueline Palank, Dow Jones Daily Bankruptcy Review; 202-862-6615;

--Peg Brickley contributed to this article.

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