Two proposals to buy Executive Life Insurance Co. were announced yesterday, one that includes specific treatment of granteed investment contracts and one that does not.
Broad Inc., a Los Angeles-based financial services firm, yesterday morning said it will submit to the California Insurance Commission a $5.5 billion offer to buy part of Executive Life Insurance Co.' assets and liabilities. The offer includes assuming GIC liabilities, but a spokeswoman for the company would not confirm that both the pension GIC and municipal GIC exposures are included in the offer.
Yesterday afternoon, an investor group including San Francisco-based Hellmann & Friedman, New York-based Fund American Cos., and Chicago-based Zell-Chilmark Fund held a press conference with California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi to announce a $750 million plan that ignores the municipal GIC liabilities altogether.
All proposals to buy Executive Life must be received by the commissioner's office today by 4:00 p.m., Pacific daylight time. Prior to yesterday's announcements, the only bid formally received was that of Mutuale Assurance Artisanale de France, a French investor group assisted by Credit Lyonnais.
The Broad proposal was not expected by insurance commission sources, who were unaware of the offer's details or existence until midday yesterday. By sharp contrast, Mr. Garamendi traveled to San Francisco to be on hand for the announcement of the Hellman & Friedman proposal.
"Our discussions with this group lead me to believe that the formal offer they plan to submit tomorrow will be a proposal that merits serious consideration," Mr. Garamendi said yesterday.
Broad, meanwhile, appears to be picking through the failed life insurer in search of the best bits. The proposal is not an attempt to acquire the company itself, but rather an offer to selectively reinsure and assume specific assets and liabilities. The firm went to great pains to make clear it was not interested in the junk bond portfolio.
The proposal "does not contemplate the acquisition . . . of any mortgage loans, real estate, or bonds rated below" BB-plus by Standard & Poor's Corp. or Bal by Moody's Investors Service, the firm's statement says.
A spokeswoman said Broad does not expect to increase its junk bond portfolio as a result of the purchase, but she refused to comment any further, saying Broad is currently registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell public shares and thus cannot divulge additional information.
Broad described the purchase of life insurance assets as its modus operandi. The firm then sells the newly acquired assets to retired investors under the fund management marque of Sun America.
Two other bidders plan to submit purchase proposals today: a bondholders' group led by John J. Creedon, former president and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., and the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations.
In related news, the California litigation over the classification of municipal GICs reached a juncture Wednesday, with the plaintiffs -- bondholders and trustee banks for municipal bonds with proceeds invested in Executive Life GICs -- resting their side of the argument.
Mr. Garamendi and other defendants, including pension GIC interests were not ready to proceed when the plaintiffs rested their arguments Wednesday morning, several sources said. The defendants are scheduled to begin their side of the arguments today.
Sources attending the hearings over the past two weeks said Judge Karl Lewin of the Los Angeles Superior Court appeared to be giving equal consideration to both sides, which would bode well for the municipal GIC interests. Equal treatment would allow municipal GIC claimants to share in Executive Life's assets.
Judge Lewin "saw the equity of the two positions, that it's not possible to say that one group has lesser interest than the other," said Janice Harwell, a partner at Thelen Marrin, Johnson & Bridges in San Francisco and attorney for plaintiff Texas Commerce Bank.
The only other indications of Judge Lewin's perspective were speeches from the bench imploring attorneys to speed up their presentations and "one very long discourse on how each side ought to be settle this case," Ms. Harwell said.
But a settlement is almost unthinkable from a logistical point of view because of "the fragmentation of decision-making authority" on either side, she said.
"On the commissioner's side [is] a very large crowd of creditors who he's not in a position to bind," Ms. Harwell said. "On our side, the trustees are not in a position to dictate terms to the bondholders. It's not as if there's a decision maker on each side you can go to and say, 'Settle this.' You'd have to literally go out and poll them."