Part of being a journalist is the occasional rude reminder that we’re in the wrong business. Creative Loafing Inc., which owns the Reader and alternative weeklies in five other cities, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months ago, and we’re all struggling. But Atlanta magazine’s Steve Fennessy, who’s been keeping a close eye on CLI’s adventures in bankruptcy court (the company’s got a paper in Atlanta), reports that an investment banker hired by CLI stands to do well whatever happens.
Fennessy reports that Bryan Crino, president of Skyway Capital Partners of Tampa (where there’s another CLI paper), stands to make at least $250,000 if he raises the capital Capital Loafing needs to keep going — and at least $600,000 if the company winds up being sold.
“These investment bankers make a lot of money to raise a lot of money,” says CEO Ben Eason in Tampa, who insists there are no plans to sell the company but allows that some investors “may be interested in, instead of investing in a company, buying it and staking you. So you’re in a technical sale.”
Is there someone inside the company who could do what Crino will be doing? I wonder. “Maybe you don’t hire an investment banker, and I start going cup in hand and talking to people,” Eason muses, taking back the image of a mendicant as soon as he’s spoken it. “Hiring Skyway and investment bankers has been a very good move for me over the years. We have always been able to raise cash to do the things we’ve wanted to do.”
Besides, it’s not just investment bankers who make out when deals get done, Eason reminds me. “If you look at how much the lawyers make — they wind up making a ton of money. To people who don’t do these deals they look like an enormous amount, but doing deals is very, very expensive.”
Atalaya Capital Management, whom CFI owes $30 million, wants the bankruptcy court to kick out Eason and let Atalaya take over the company. “They’re running Bennigan’s now,” says Eason. Sure enough. An Atalaya partner made the announcement last month: “We’re thrilled to have reached an agreement with the Bankruptcy court for the acquisition of Bennigan’s Franchising Company and our goal is to continue to partner with existing franchisees, as well as new ones, to grow the Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern brand. We are excited about working with everyone involved in the company to reinvigorate the Bennigan’s brand.”
So if Bryan Crino doesn’t work his magic soon, maybe you’ll be getting free fries with your copy of the Reader.