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SG Snares Penguins, Hornets Sports Deals

10 Mar 2002

Société Générale has landed the lead role on bank deals for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Hornets, the first deals being led by SG since the departure of Sal Galatioto and his sports advisory group to Lehman Brothers last year. Randy Campbell replaced Galatioto last year from Morgan Stanley to re-launch the sports advisory group.

The Hornets transaction is a $75 million refinancing that has been funded but not yet syndicated. The deal partially backs the proposed move to New Orleans, following a request to the NBA to relocate the franchise. A response is expected in early April. Split between a $35 million revolver and $40 million term loan, the credit is priced at LIBOR plus 31/ 4% with 1/2% on the unused while the tenor is two years plus four months. A bank meeting will be held later this month in New Orleans to syndicate the credit. Local lenders and sports investors have been approached, said a banker.

New Orleans council built a stadium two years ago without having an anchor tenant, so if the Hornets are successful with the move, play will begin 02/03, the banker said. The principal collateral on the deal is the franchise and with the already built stadium, prospects are good, he added. Meanwhile, the Charlotte city council has also obtained financing from Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Duke Energy for $100 million, in order to keep the team in Charlotte by building a more state-of-the-art arena. However, one banker said, "The council cannot really dictate to the owners of the team where they play, and so this scenario is unlikely."

The Penguins deal launched in Pittsburgh last Wednesday. The Lemieux Group, led by Penguins star Mario Lemieux, is the borrower, and the $35 million deal is fully underwritten and secured. Split between a $20 million revolver and a $15 million term loan, pricing is LIBOR plus 23/ 4% on the outstandings and 1/2% on the undrawn. The deal refinances existing debt and also provides working capital. SG is offering two tiers, a $10 million tier at 1/2% and a $5 million tier at 1/4%. Provident Bank has already committed $15 million as a co-agent. "It is an asset-based loan, rather than an amortizing cash-flow deal," said a banker. Calls to Ken Sawyer, cfo of the Penguins were not returned.

10 Mar 2002