Northwest, Hedge Funds Reach Accord

An ad hoc committee of equity holders will withdraw its objection to the airline's reorganization plan.
Stephen TaubMay 15, 2007

Northwest Airlines has hammered out a deal with the “ad hoc committee of equity security holders,” according to the Associated Press, which cited a court filing on Monday.

The agreement smoothes the way toward the airline’s exit from bankruptcy, planned for June. A hearing to approve Northwest’s reorganization is scheduled to begin Wednesday, according to the wire service.

The AP reported that under the deal, the ad hoc committee — made up mostly of hedge funds — will withdraw its objection to the reorganization plan and specifically to unsecured claims given to unions in exchange for pay cuts. Northwest will pay up to $5 million in shareholder attorneys’ fees, though this is apparently a hot issue with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper. According to the AP, Gropper will look for evidence that the shareholders made a “substantial contribution” to the case to justify such a payment.

Ad hoc committees have become very powerful in recent years. Usually they consist of hedge funds and private-equity funds that snatch up shares, debts, or claims on the cheap, then aggressively fight for the best possible value in the reorganization.

As is generally the case, under Northwest’s reorganization the current equity will become worthless. However, the company expects unsecured claimholders to receive about 74 cents on the dollar payable in new shares, according to an AP report in March. Secured claimholders will be paid in full, in cash.

Members of the ad hoc committee bought a big chunk of the company’s stock and, in some cases, debt, according to the wire service. The committee reportedly also convinced Gropper to appoint an examiner to determine whether Northwest properly evaluated the value of its assets. The examiner’s report was filed Monday but sealed by Gropper, according to the AP.