Stephen Lubben at DealBook noticed something kind of amazing in the Hostess Brands bankruptcy case:
Turns out that Hostess has no treasury department. Indeed, it apparently doesn’t have anyone who can perform treasury functions at all.
The company has asked the bankruptcy court for permission to hire FTI Consulting to do the work. Apparently Hostess does not have much of a finance department either, since FTI is also providing employees for that department.
If approved, FTI will provide three people to staff Hostess’ treasury department. The interim treasurer gets monthly fees that work out to an annual salary of $780,000. His two deputies get $660,000 per year, each.
The finance department group gets paid hourly rates that top out at $895 per hour. You might think that would supplant the need for a financial adviser in the case, but Hostess is asking to retain one of those, too.
Now that maybe goes a little overboard on the grave-dancing (lots of, really all, companies with full honest-to-goodness treasury and finance staffs still hire advisers in bankruptcy) but, still: that is kind of weird! If you read Hostess’s motion and the attached engagement letter, it appears that they’re just seeking signoff on an arrangement they struck in June. So they’ve been operating for at least six months or so with an outside consultant as their contract treasurer – and with the rest of their treasury roles filled either by other consultants or by nobody. That’s somewhat unusual for a company with 19,000 employees, a pension plan, and something like $1bn in enterprise value.*
I don’t really know what’s going on here but just for fun let’s blame private equity! In this connection, it’s worth noting that Hostess has been down this road before and was acquired out of bankruptcy in 2009 by Ripplewood Holdings. Private equity firms are, of course, rapacious scum put on earth solely to destroy the jobs of innocent hard-working Americans, so sayeth Newt, and if you like you can put that interpretation on Ripplewood here, or not, whatever. That will be determined by a series of campaign ads and op-eds, though it’s worth noting that Ripplewood had the decency to pluck Hostess out of Chapter 11 and keep it alive for over two years before re-bankrupting it.
But I think this oddity illustrates another aspect of private equity firms, which is that their deals-’n'-finance operations tend to be comically lean and intensively supported by outside advisers. Read more »