In this morning’s POST, it is reported that New York hedge fund honcho Bill Ackman has set his sights on the beleaguered Manhattan apartment complex Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village — with an ambitious plan to wrest control of the 11,227-unit complex by transforming the infamous rental property into a giant co-op.
The 44-year-old investment guru’s Pershing Square Capital Management set things in motion yesterday by revealing Pershing and a partner had purchased a $300 million slice of StuyTown’s second mortgage, or mezzanine financing, for $45 million — or 15 cents on the dollar.
Ownership of the key slice of the $1.4 billion second mortgage puts Ackman in control of the debt of a Tishman Speyer entity that operates StuyTown and is responsible for paying the $3 billion first mortgage.
Ackman’s first move will come on Aug. 25 when he is expected to foreclose on the Tishman partnership entity — which doesn’t have the funds to pay Ackman’s group the interest due it — thus putting him in the lead negotiator’s position in dealing with lenders.
He is then expected to try and work out a deal with the lenders — with the co-op plan being the centerpiece.
“The property doesn’t make sense as a rental, but it makes a lot of sense as a co-op,” Ackman said in a telephone interview yesterday. The moneyman called his co-op initiative “a non-eviction, affordable, co-op conversion.”
There is not enough cash flow from rentals to pay off the $3 billion mortgage — something a switch to a co-op could cure.
The landmark middle-class housing complex has been in limbo since owner and real estate developer Tishman Speyer announced last year it couldn’t continue payments on the whopping $3 billion mortgage — taken out in 2006 at the height of the property bubble.
The mortgage lenders have since been moving toward foreclosure while the tenants have been working on their own plans to buy the property.
Ackman said he hasn’t yet talked with CW Capital — the mortgage servicer currently in charge of the $3 billion mortgage — but feels confident “they’ll be happy we’re involved.”
If lenders balk at Ackman’s plan and decide to pursue a foreclosure, they’re going to have to take a haircut to the tune of at least $1 billion, he said. “We can make them whole,” he added, referring to the co-op conversion plan.
“Bankruptcy is most likely” if Ackman is able to convince lenders to accept the plan, said a person familiar with the situation.
Tenants say they are taking a wait-and-see approach to the plan, but there are already signs of resistance from the lenders.
“These are not folks that are riding in on white horses,” said a person close to the mortgage holders. “This is an opportunistic purchase and they’re trying to make a windfall out of nothing,” said the person, who declined to characterize how the mortgage holders might respond.
Are you falling behind on your mortgage? Want to sell it for 15 cents on the dollar?