Harbinger Capital Partners founder Philip Falcone was unapologetic about trying exclude Dish Network founder Charles Ergen from LightSquared’s restructuring plan. In fact, Falcone said, he’d like to go even further.
Falcone testified yesterday at a bankruptcy hearing for Harbinger’s wireless internet venture. Faced with tough questions from Dish’s lawyer about his efforts to exclude Ergen, Falcone never wavered, arguing that Ergen improperly acquired some $850 million in LightSquared debt, in contravention of the company’s credit covenant barring competitors from investing.
“I don’t think Charlie should have been in the capital structure,” Falcone said. “I didn’t think Charlie should be there to begin with.”
Ergen’s lawyers showed a series of e-mails in which Falcone writes about “jamming Charlie” and treating all parties in the case well “except Ergen.” Falcone countered that LightSquared’s Fortress Investment Group-backed $2.65 billion restructuring plan actually treats Ergen too well. Under that proposal, Ergen would receive third-lien notes payable over seven years, while other creditors would get cash.
Ergen, who testified last week that his investment in LightSquared was a personal one, in spite of Dish’s later offer to buy the company, argues that the plan is unfair to him. But Falcone said Ergen’s claims would be “more than covered.”
That is, of course, unless U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman disallows them entirely, as LightSquared and Falcone have separately asked her to do.
Falcone also sought to counter the impression that he got all he wanted in the Fortress plan. In addition to having to merely subordinate, rather than cancel, Ergen’s debt, Falcone noted that Harbinger’s stake would fall from 80% to 30% under the plan, although it could rise to 45% if Harbinger kicks in more money.