When the investment firm Joseph Littlejohn & Levy sought a bank loan for its latest and largest buyout - Hayes Wheels International Inc.'s $1.1 billion acquisition of Motor Wheel Corp. - it seemed everyone wanted a piece of the action.
Institutions made commitments for more than double the $900 million Joseph Littlejohn sought when it tapped Merrill Lynch & Co. and CIBC Wood Gundy - investment arm of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce - to lead the deal.
Participants included BankAmerica Corp., Citicorp, Comerica Inc., and five other banks, as well as a dozen institutional buyers commiting to a $645 million senior bank loan. In addition, the two investment banks plan a $250 million issue of senior subordinated notes for the deal by mid-June.
"Now that people have seen the results of Ornda, Foodbrands, and Liberty Broadcasting, I think banks are quite keen to do business with them," said David Webb, a managing director at Merrill Lynch, referring to other companies successfully financed by Joseph Littlejohn.
The Hayes deal reflects the kind of transaction the eight-year-old midtown Manhattan investment firm is actively seeking.
And the quick reponse from the banking community appears to guarantee that the firm - which has $620 million of equity capital and controls companies with $3.8 billion in annual revenue - will be back in the bank loan market.
"Our investment in Motor Wheel was in conjunction with a necessary recapitalization of the business," said Paul Levy, a partner in the firm and a main player in the transaction. "Once we found ourselves in the company, we were then positioned to look for a strategic combination. We'd hope to replicate that in future deals."
Mr. Levy and Marcos Rodriguez, a Joseph Littlejohn principal involved in the deal, said they liked the one-stop shopping approach both Merrill and CIBC demonstrated in the Hayes transaction.
"The banks provided a service in dollars, and became partners," Mr. Levy said. "They provided us with credibility in the process of putting the deal together. We could say that we were in fact real and viable candidates and we'd get to the finish line."
By the finish line, Joseph Littlejohn had invested a total of $118 million in the combined company, for a 43% stake. The firm brought $80 million in new equity to the deal. And CIBC Wood Gundy's new $200 million equity fund invested about $75 million.
In fact, the equity fund helped bring the Canadian investment bank into the financing. The fact that the fund works side by side with bank clients instead of competing with them encouraged Joseph Littlejohn to approach the bank.
"They can come in as a partner, but not as a competitor, which is why we went to CIBC initially," Mr. Levy said.
Additionally, when a bank provides equity and loans side by side, a transaction like the Hayes deal is a lot easier to complete, Mr. Levy said.
Mr. Levy and Mr. Rodriguez also said that Merrill and CIBC collaborated well.
"Merrill and CIBC told us that they worked together in the past, so we knew they'd cooperate," Mr. Rodriguez said.
"We are very put off by these investment banks when they snipe at one another," Mr. Levy said. "There are so many difficult issues to deal with that that ought not be one."
Mr. Levy said that having banks perform a variety of functions makes the process of communicating with bond and bank loan investors easier.
"You don't have to worry about coordinating road shows where one group of financiers wants to take the group one way and emphasize certain elements and the other picks different elements they consider crucial," Mr. Levy said.
Where the process becomes stickier is when a bank solicits the entire business, but lacks the competence to execute every aspect of the transaction equally well.
"If someone comes in and says they can do one-stop shopping, that's fine, but the question is, can they do it in a way that lets us sleep at night," Mr. Levy said.
The firm does not like to "turn the family jewels over to just one banker," Mr. Levy said.
Indeed, Merrill Lynch was brought in on the Hayes transaction after CIBC because of its strength in the high-yield business.
"Merrill is also trying to build the bank business and they have very impressive people on the team," Mr. Levy said.
In general, Mr. Levy said, loans and high-yield products are commodities, and as such aren't as valuable to the company as a steady stream of advice.
"What we need are good ideas first," Mr. Levy said.
The bankers who worked with Joseph Littlejohn said that the firm's laid- back style makes it easy and pleasant for bankers who support its bids.
"They and a handful of other firms of their size receive an unusually high level of service" from their banks, Mr. Webb said.