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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cerberus has top HawTel stake

BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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A private equity firm that controls some of the top luxury hotels in the state will become Hawaiian Telcom Inc.'s largest investor.

Cerberus Capital Management LP will own 16.7 percent of Hawaiian Telcom once the local company emerges from bankruptcy protection, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Cerberus will not have a controlling interest in Hawaiian Telcom and so far, the firm's investment has been largely passive.

But that could change once the local phone company emerges from bankruptcy and its stock begins trading on the financial markets.

Cerberus officials could not be reached for immediate comment.

The company has been steadily increasing its investment in Hawaiian Telcom since last fall.

The Advertiser reported in November that Cerberus had acquired $7.6 million of Hawaiian Telcom's bank debt from from JPMorgan Chase Bank. That debt will be converted into stock when Hawaiian Telcom completes its bankruptcy reorganization.

Founded in 1992, Cerberus is one of the world's largest private equity firms with more than $23 billion under management.

The company, named after the mythical three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the ancient Greek underworld, was Chrysler LLC's biggest shareholder but those holdings were wiped out after the Detroit automaker filed for bankruptcy last year.

Here in Hawai'i, Cerberus owns 65 percent of Kokusai Kogyo KK, the Japan-based owner of the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian and the Sheraton Moana Surfrider.

The company also owns 30 percent of Seibu Holdings, which owns the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and the Hapuna Beach Prince Resort and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island.

Founded in 1883, Hawaiian Telcom is the state's largest communications company, with 1,400 workers and annual operating revenues of about $500 million.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 due to its heavy debt load and the loss of thousands of customers to wireless and other competitors.

Last year, Hawaiian Telcom received U.S. bankruptcy court approval for a $460 million, standalone reorganization plan. The plan still requires the approval of the state Public Utilities Commission.