Bakers Fund engages investment banking firm

by Josh Sosland
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KENSINGTON, MD. — The Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund (known as the Bakers Fund) on Jan. 19 announced it has hired Gordian Group L.L.C. in connection with the Hostess Brands, Inc., bankruptcy.

Based in New York, Gordian Group specializes in offering financial advisory services in “distressed and complicated situations.”

David B. Durkee, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union, and chairman of the Bakers Fund, announced the Gordian engagement and described the move as part of an effort “to preserve their jobs and pension benefits, and assisting with the continuation of Hostess’ business and operations.”

“We are delighted to add Gordian’s firepower to our advisory team,” he said. “They have a long and excellent track record in distressed financial situations and we are pleased that they are now working with us.”

Peter Kaufman, president of Gordian and head of restructuring and distressed mergers and acquisitions, described as “pivotal” the importance of the bakery union working with the buyer(s) in order to “create the opportunity to increase value.”

“Buyers should know that the bakers are very interested in having direct discussions with them,” Mr. Kaufman said. “Our mission here is a critical one, and we aim to assist the bakers’ leadership and counsel in working with interested bidders to preserve jobs, providing a seamless restart of baking operations, and achieving the best possible outcome for the bakers’ members under these difficult circumstances.”

According to the Bakers Fund, Gordian is different from other investment banks, in that is provides “conflict-free advice.”

“Gordian has no institutional loyalties to funds or bondholders, including those in the Hostess Brands capital structure,” the Bakers Fund said.

The announcement of the Gordian engagement does not offer specifics into the mandate given by the Bakers Fund to the investment bank. Nor does the announcement explain why Gordian has been engaged at a late stage in the sale of the Hostess Brands assets.

“The bakers are here to work with bidders in any way as our sole goal is to maximize jobs and pension benefits for our members,” Mr. Durkee said. “We are looking to support and work with well-capitalized bidders.”

Background material offered by Gordian and its work lists Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as a “representative engagement.” In a summary of its work there, Gordian said it was hired to evaluate strategic and investment options to enhance shareholder value at a time when the company was struggling with distribution.

Complicating the picture, Gordian said, was the company’s “eclectic weighing of value, desire for independence and social mission.”

Gordian said after a lengthy negotiating process “we were able to craft a viable solution” in which Unilever acquired the company at a premium price while the existing board was kept in place to “monitor the social mission and product quality.” The Unilever transaction was completed in 2000.
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