One of Hollywood’s most freewheeling studios is now in the hands of a turnaround specialist with a PhD. in Applied & Engineering Physics. FTI Consulting’s Senior Managing Director Brian Kushner is Relativity’s Chief Restructuring Officer — with the authority to make financing deals, sell assets, and lay off about 88 people — according to the studio’s filing today for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company faces at least 50 unsecured creditors looking for more than $73 million. Ad giant Carat USA accounts for $36.8 million, a little more than half of the total, which Relativity says is disputed. Others on the list include Palisades Mediagroup ($5.2 million), Cinram Group ($4.2 million), Technicolor Digital ($3.4 million), Technicolor ($3.1 million loan), and Cinedigm ($1.9 million).
Relativity says that it has a life line: Some of its lenders, still unnamed, have formed an entity called RM Bidder that plans to “acquire substantially all of the assets of Relativity” pending approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Kushner’s FTI Consulting and investment banking firm Blackstone Group will lead the sale, expected to take place in early October.
Kushner also has arranged $45 million in debtor-in-possession financing, Relativity says. The company will wind down its fashion division, M3/Relativity, and it said yesterday that it was eliminating 75 full-time positions.
Will that be enough? That’s hard to say from the bankruptcy filing. It says Relativity has anywhere from $100 million to $500 million in assets, but liabilities from $500 million to $1 billion.
The Chapter 11 filing gives Relativity “additional time and structure to achieve our financial and strategic objectives,” CEO Ryan Kavanaugh says in a statement. The turnaround team includes co-counsels Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, and Jones Day, Blackstone, and consulting firm Donlin, Recano & Co.
FTI has extensive experience helping media companies sort through their finances. In late 2012 it bought Roy Salter’s LA-based Salter Group, a well-known name in corporate finance and valuations whose clients included Legendary Pictures, Disney, Sony and New Regency.
But Hollywood is a detour for Kushner, who co-leads FTI’s practices in Technology, and Aerospace, Defense and Government Contracting. Relativity’s Chief Restructuring Officer came to FTI in 2008 when it bought Dallas-based turnaround firm CXO, where Kushner was a partner.
Although he has been involved in dozens of restructurings, two stand out. He revived Texas’ Sage Telecom before selling the company in 2012. Earlier he led Pacific Crossing — a former subsidiary of Global Crossing — out of bankruptcy and resolved more than $2 billion in claims before selling it in 2009 to Japan’s NTT Communications Corp.