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Lawmakers Grill Private Equity Firms Over Toys ‘R Us Collapse

July 09, 2018, 08:00 AM
Filed Under: Bankruptcy

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), along with CPC Vice Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), are taking aim at two of the world's largest private equity firms for their alleged role in rhe downfall of iconic toy retailer Toys ‘R Us.

In letters to Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado Realty Trust, 19 lawmakers request answers regarding the firms’ management practices and inquire into any plans to offer severance pay to all laid-off Toys ‘R Us workers. Citing a deep concern about the health of the U.S. retail sector, the lawmakers blame excessive debt payments resulting from a leveraged buyout of the company for its demise into bankruptcy and liquidation.

Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado Realty Trust took Toys R Us private for $6.6 billion in 2005, loading the company with a reported $5 billion in debt. The business ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. Creditors eventually took control, opting to shut down all US stores while some 33,000 workers lost their jobs and were denied $75 million in combined severance.

"Despite bringing in over $150 million in operating profit, Toys ‘R Us has struggled to pay $400 million every year to service its estimated $5 billion long-term debt to Bain Capital and KKR," the members of Congress wrote. "Leveraged buyouts—such as those facilitated by your companies—often result in mass job loss, closure of profitable businesses, and unnecessary financial burdens for local government.  Such buyouts harm communities, while investment managers walk away with significant gains. In fact, due to the closure of Toys ‘R Us, 33,000 workers lost their jobs, while your firms have extracted over $500 million from Toys ‘R Us during the period you have owned the company. The Toys ‘R Us bankruptcy—under your management and oversight—has become the third-largest in retail history."

"We are concerned that your investment firms have deliberately chosen this path for the company, its workers and its communities," the lawmakers added, listing a series of four questions for the firms about their management practices.

According to a report from Pitchbook, Bain Capital and KKR have maintained they wanted Toys R Us to emerge from the bankruptcy rather than liquidate. 

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