Centric Brands Inc.: Exits Bankruptcy

The long line of companies that filed for bankruptcy as the pandemic took hold in the spring of 2020 is now headed in the other direction with cleaned up balance sheets, new owners and high hopes. Included in this group is Centric Brands, which exited Chapter 11 on October 9, 2020 following a “debt for equity swap” with its well known lenders, including Blackstone and Ares Management. Old debt is being forgiven in return for a controlling equity and new debt (including a securitisation facility) being provided by the owner/lenders.

The BDC Credit Reporter has been writing about Centric for some time, and with special interest, given the large amounts of BDC capital advanced to the company even before the restructuring : $129.9mn at cost. We’re guessing that the valuations by the 3 BDCs involved as of June 2020 must be close to the final deal struck, which has been in the works since the filing in May. Almost certainly written off is the $24.6mn invested in the equity of pre-bankruptcy Centric by Ares Capital (ARCC), which the BDC has written down to zero. That was carried at par back in early 2019.

Then there’s $98.5mn in first lien 2023 Term debt, held by ARCC, TCW Direct Lending VII and Garrison Capital (GARS), which has been discounted between (4%) and (16%) by the lenders involved. There are some “last out” arrangements in the debt which may explain the discrepancies.

Interestingly, and despite the bankruptcy, none of the BDCs carried any of their debt as non-performing as of June 2020. That may be because the 2023 debt was Pay-In-Kind anyway. Finally, there’s $6.7mn in 2021 DIP financing provided by the same trio, which is likely to be folded into the post-bankruptcy capital structure. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised that after all is said and done the BDCs involved end up with more capital in Centric than ever before.

Exactly how large the realized losses will be is impossible to tell as each BDC might value its new equity stake differently. We’re guessing that total losses booked will be ($35mn-$40mn), or roughly a third of the capital invested at June 30. ARCC will be the biggest loser by far, followed by TCW Direct Lending and with GARS losing ($1mn-$2mn). Losses could have been much higher but the BDCs were positioned above $700mn+ in second lien debt held by Blackstone. That’s the debt being written off and which will reduce leverage by about half. For that Blackstone receives 70% of the equity of the new Centric and the other lenders 30%.

Of course, neither Centric Brands nor BDC exposure is going anywhere and success is not guaranteed. We are upgrading the company from CCR 5 to CCR 3, still on the underperformers list. Centric has had to lay off hundreds of employees and continues to be leveraged, so questions will remain for some time about its viability under its new lender ownership.

We will circle back with an update when IIIQ 2020 or IVQ 2020 BDC results are published and we can ascertain what realized losses were booked and what the revised outstandings look like for all three BDCs involved.