The General Motors Corp. bankruptcy, which dooms the Wilmington-area plant that makes Saturns and Pontiacs, will create temporary legal and financial work for Wilmington Trust Corp., four miles away.
GM bondholders rely on Wilmington Trust to serve as trustee representing investors who hold $23 billion in bonds in the stricken automaker. Trustees do anything from seizing assets to administering payments and the endless flow of court data.
The bank replaced former bond trustee Citibank, which could have a tough time representing bondholders because GM owes it piles of money. For Wilmington Trust, no loan, no conflict.
"We'll be in it as long as they're in bankruptcy,"
said Dan Fisher, head of the bankruptcy group in the bank's Corporate Client Services Unit.
When Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. failed last fall, "we probably had 30 people working on it" during peak periods, said client services head Bill Farrell. GM will mean more work than that. In all, Farrell's unit employs 460 lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, up from 250 five years ago, after a string of acquisitions.
The work won't likely spread, however, to Wilmington's Rodney Square corporate law firms. Like many recent corporate bankruptcies, General Motors filed, not in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, where it is legally incorporated, but in the larger New York court. Wilmington Trust has hired Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher L.L.P.'s New York office as legal counsel.
No Vanguard deal?
Vanguard Group Inc., advised by Chicago-based William Blair & Co. L.L.C., has bid $5 billion for rival Barclays' iShares exchange-traded funds business, the U.K.-based Telegraph newspaper claimed yesterday.
Barclays already has a $4.4 billion offer from a private-equity group. It's got until June 18 to top that.
Vanguard would not say if it made an offer. Vanguard-watchers are skeptical. "My gut reaction is, not in a million years," said Philadelphia fund consultant and deal-maker Burton J. Greenwald.
With its broad shareholder-ownership structure and lack of debt, "Vanguard has a long history of not making acquisitions," Greenwald said. It looks, but seldom closes, preferring to build its own.
"This smacks of investment bankers trying to boost their bids," Daniel P. Wiener, Brooklyn-based publisher of the Independent Advisor for Vanguard Investors newsletter, told me. Vanguard is unlikely to outbid competitors, "given their 'cheap' ethos."
We hear Janney Montgomery Scott L.L.C. is negotiating to bulk up its New York office with Wall Street pros looking to escape bank-owned, taxpayer-subsidized firms (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., SmithBarney), where compensation is restricted under federal TARP program guidelines.
Starbucks Corp. is using brokers from the Cushman & Wakefield Inc. commercial real estate brokerage to get landlords to reduce rental rates for stores around the country, a couple of Philadelphia real estate sources tell me.
Starbucks operates more than 7,000 stores and licenses more than 4,000 more, and it said in January that it was trying to cut costs across the board. The company "is pushing some U.S. landlords for as much as a 25 percent reduction in lease rates, taking advantage of a declining real estate market to save on rent," Bloomberg reported last week.
Tough on landlords. Will it also mean cheaper coffee?
Subprime to insurance
George Norcross III, chairman of $1 billion (yearly sales) property and employee insurance brokers Conner Strong Cos. Inc., chairman of Cooper University Hospital, and key Democratic Party fund-raiser, has moved his firm's headquarters and 130 Conner Strong workers to 40 Lake Center Executive Park, a four-story, 55,000-square-foot trapezoid on Route 73 in Marlton.
This was the local office of subprime-mortgage lender IndyMac Bank, before the government took it over last year. Norcross says he sublet the space, vacating his old office at 1006 Astoria Blvd. in Cherry Hill. Conner Strong employs an additional 60 in Philadelphia, and 100 in North Jersey.