(Corrects Lockyer’s title in eighth paragraph in story originally published April 17.)
Cerberus Capital Management LP’s founder Stephen Feinberg and his partners may try to acquire gunmaker Freedom Group Inc. from the private-equity funds managed by his firm, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Cerberus put Freedom Group, the maker of the rifle used in a Connecticut school shooting last year, up for sale in December after coming under pressure from public pension fund investors. Feinberg and other partners at New York-based Cerberus have approached wealthy individuals about joining in a “stalking horse” bid to spark competition for Freedom Group and ensure it fetches a fair price, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.
Freedom Group makes the Bushmaster rifle used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, which left 26 people dead. The shooting ignited a national debate over gun violence and led to efforts by Congressional Democrats and some Republicans to set new restrictions on gun sales.
As a way to safeguard against Feinberg or another bidder paying too little, Cerberus has explored the possibility of asking investors in its funds to form a special committee that would sign off on any deal, the people said.
There is no break-up fee if another bidder tops Feinberg’s offer, the people said. If another buyer offers 10 percent or more above the stalking horse bid, Feinberg would be compelled to withdraw from the auction, one of the people said.
Feinberg has not yet decided if he will proceed with an offer, they said. News of his possible bid was reported earlier by Reuters. John Dillard, a spokesman for Cerberus at Weber Shandwick, declined to comment.
Feinberg’s father is a resident of Liberty at Newtown, a community for people 55 and older about 6 miles from the elementary school where the shooting took place, Bloomberg News reported in December. He said in an interview at the time that the shooting was “devastating.”
Cerberus said it would put Freedom Group up for sale four days after the massacre. California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, one of its largest backers, disclosed it was reviewing its investment in the firm in the aftermath of the shooting. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer has proposed that the state’s public pensions divest holdings in firearms manufacturers.
The private-equity firm hired Lazard Ltd. (LAZ:US) to manage the sale after other banks it approached turned it down, Bloomberg News reported in January.
Cerberus acquired Bushmaster Firearms Inc. in 2006 and later merged it with a second gun maker, Remington Arms Co. Inc., to create Freedom Group. The company generated $887.7 million in sales and $143.4 million of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the 12 months ended September 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.
Feinberg founded Cerberus with William Richter in 1992. The firm has more than $20 billion in managed assets.
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