2ND UPDATE, 3:10 PM: Relativity Media will have to wait another day to complete its case to escape from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Judge Michael Wiles will reconvene the lawyers tomorrow after questioning some bullish testimony from Relativity financier Joseph Nicholas.
CEO Ryan Kavanaugh’s partner at the studio said that he has “a long list of investors who are interested” in supporting it. “I’ll be picking up those conversations as soon as possible” once it emerges from bankruptcy.
“I hope you’re 100% right, but you’re a little short on specifics,” the judge said.
Nicholas — who has invested about $70 million in Relativity — says he’s been in touch with “more than 50” entities potentially putting up anywhere from $5 million-$100 million and “maybe more.” One unnamed group “went far in due diligence for $50 million but its board wouldn’t let them go though while Relativity is in bankruptcy.”
The judge asked whether Nicholas “made best efforts to get commitments before [today’s] hearing.” Nicholas said he had but “didn’t have enough time” during the Christmas holiday season. “I’m confident that we’ll raise more than enough equity for the business.”
During his testimony, Nicholas said that Kavanaugh’s “like an electric motor. I’m going to try to act like the governor to that motor.”
Houlihan Lokey managing director Marni Wieshofer testified that Relativity looks like “a mini-Lionsgate.” It has “six movies that are ready now” plus “a great team. It’s been whittled down [but is] very loyal.” A plan to release about seven films a year “is reasonable.”
She says she has introduced potential investors to Relativity. Many “don’t like all the noise” of a bankruptcy — but once it’s over “I won’t call it a feeding frenzy, but there’ll be a lot of activity.”
UPDATE, 1:55 PM: Relativity now says that it will be fine if it emerges from Chapter 11 protection with just $20 million in committed cash — far less than the more than $100 million it envisioned earlier. The studio says it has other financial commitments in the works, but not yet locked up.
That seemed to trouble Wiles. With so much of the financial plan still not secure “it leaves me wondering whether I need to make a prediction” to decide whether the company’s ready to stand on its own.
Relativity’s financial expert, Houlihan Lokey Managing Director Matthew Niemann, said that if the agreements fell apart “would it compromise their abiity to operate? Yes.” But the studio could “self help your way through or you sell assets or sell off everything.”
He said that he spoke to Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh about “this very point.” And Niemann says he’s “comfortable that given the debt reduction here there is sufficient value” for the studio to deal with its obligations without returning to Bankruptcy Court for help.
PREVIOUS, 12:10 PM: Testimony is still underway, but Relativity Media’s expert witness told the U.S. Bankruptcy Court today that its new financial arrangements should keep it from going bankrupt again for at least two years.
Houlihan Lokey Managing Director Matthew Niemann told Judge Michael Wiles that if Relativity is excused from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection then movie production will account for “the lion’s share of the business” — possibly 90% of revenues.
It will have about $20 million in cash and $280 million in debt, down from $910 million. That will include $120 million of debt tied to Relativity Holdings with the remaining $160 million for individual films and assets.
“A key takeaway is that there is still material debt,” Niemann says. “But the other key takeaway is that it’s materially reduced leverage. That materially reduces the risk on the enterprise.”
Early in the testimony Wiles asked for financial tables to be shown on two courtroom monitors. Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh adjusted both, leading Wiles to ask him: “Are you taking over as Chief of IT?”