Loss of control is almost always a risk when debt is reorganized and Tribune Co.’s trip to bankruptcy court could cost Sam Zell just that. According to one early-stage scenario laid out by the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Oneal, creditors holding $8.6 billion in senior debt could wind up with control following a debt-for-equity swap that would wipe out Zell’s right to buy about 40 percent of Tribune for $500 million. (via Romenesko) His loan of $250 million isn’t near the top of the debt pile and a source tells Oneal it is unlikely it would hold any value in the reorganization. reorganization proceeds.
Even so, Zell could retain control if the debtors want him to stay on. The company told its flagship paper Zell and his top managers remain “actively engaged and committed to this company. The restructuring is still in progress, and it is premature to speculate about the final ownership structure.” The situation is complicated by the way Zell took the company private through employee ownership.