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7 Jun 2010

Activist Hedge Funds Buying Newspaper Industry Debt

HedgeCo News - The Los Angeles Times reports that hedge funds and banks are taking over some of the major US newspapers as they begin to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

"Distressed debt" hedge funds such as Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Alden Global Capital and Oaktree Capital Management have been buying up cheap, delinquent debt, then taking it to Bankruptcy Court for a settlement that transforms the debt into a large share of company stock, the LA Times reported, with itself, Tribune Co., being one of the newspapers under siege along with KTLA-TV Channel 5 among others.

The hedge funds, such as Angelo, Gordon & Co, as well as JPMorgan will be major shareholders in both Tribune and Freedom The LA Times reported. People with knowledge of the the hedge funds' strategy, say that the hedge funds want quality, branded journalism that still draws advertisers and therefore is worth preserving.

"The hedge funds will have to remain patient if they want to reap what they've sown in newspapers," the LA Times quoted. "The funds probably don't even have a firm exit strategy in place, and it will take sure signs of an economic recovery to grease deals and liquidity events."

Analysts believe, the LA Times said, that the newspaper industry had gotten so beaten down during the crisis that they have become a bargain for hedge funds.

Opalesque: Hedge Funds Engage in "Armageddon Strategies"

HedgeCo News - Opalesque has released the 32nd issue in a series of regional roundtable forums - the 2010 Opalesque West Coast Roundtable. The 25 page Roundtable publication covers “Armageddon” strategies and how plan sponsors have changed their game during the past 18 months.

"All we did was provide huge amounts of liquidity." John Burbank from Passport Capital said regarding the massive deficits run up in an effort to stabilize the markets and economies, "The markets are as vulnerable to financial shocks and at least as highly leveraged than they were before the financial crisis. The Fed has more than doubled its balance sheet and will have to exit markets at some point or its legitimacy will be called into question".

Burbank added that a number of people have asked Passport to design funds comprised of macro trades that would help them hedge against systemic risks.

Jay Gould from Pillsbury also helped creating distaster insurance or “armageddon strategy” funds which work under the premise that U.S. will experience a very difficult time over the next several years, “including hyper-inflation, the abandonment of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, further complications associated with our huge deficit spending, and a rush toward hard assets.”

The Roundtable discussion also includes:

• Overview of the latest products and research from funds and CTAs on intermarket correlations and quantitative trading
• A discussion on the impact the regulatory changes will have on the markets: How will mandating more OTC products to clear/trade on an exchange impact liquidity? What is more important in a derivatives contract - liquidity or flexibility?
• The democratization of alternatives: More funds using the 1940 Act format will be offering real CTA strategies with daily liquidity
• Running a hedge fund from the West Coast: Why this location counts and where West beats the East Coast.

The Roundtable was sponsored by the CME Group and the Opalesque 2010 Roundtable Series Sponsors Custom House Group and Taussig Capital. The following West Coast based experts participated:

• John Burbank, Managing Member and Chief Investment Officer, Passport Capital
• Jay Gould, Partner, Pillsbury
• Jeremy Evnine, President, Evnine & Associates, Inc.
• Matt Osborne, Executive Vice President & CIO, Altegris
• Ranjit Sufi, Manging Director, Nuveen
• Rishi Narang, Founding Principal, Telesis Capital
• Tina Lemieux, Managing Director of Hedge Fund and Broker Services, CME Group
• Tom Shanks, Founder and CEO, Hawksbill

Matthias Knab, founder of Opalesque and internationally recognized expert on hedge funds and alternatives, moderates the Opalesque Roundtables.