The plight of Archstone has been a widely-debated topic in the industry for the past couple of years. The apartment giant, which was No. 8 on the Multifamily Executive Top 50 Owners list with 62,741 units, was taken private by in a Lehman Brothers Holdings with $22 billion leveraged buyout in 2007. And now, it's changing hands again.
After one Lehman's bankruptcy and two reported bailouts from its bankers, a BusinessWeek article late last week said that Lehman Brothers Holdings may sell Archstone, which was Lehman's largest real estate asset, to two affiliates, Lehman Commercial Paper and Luxco (also known as Luxembourg Residential Properties Loan Finance S.a.r.l) for "yet undefined consideration." The article cites a court filing by Gerard Uzzi, a lawyer for Lehman creditors.
When asked about the report by Multifamily Executive, Archstone referred all inquiries to Lehman, which didn't return calls. In May, the company won an attempt to salvage Archstone. BusinessWeek reported that Lehman currently is trying to "untangle numerous claims and obligations with its bankrupt and non-bankrupt affiliates."
As this plays out, industry watchers still wonder what will happen to Archstone. For months now, the prevailing wisdom was that the company would end up on the public markets again. "We know that Lehman is trying to work through some commitments," says Haendel St. Juste, an analyst with analyst firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW). "We know that they'd like to sell it. The logical next step is to bring it public. An IPO [initial public offering] is an eventual certainty. The timing is the question."
But others wonder if that's what will really happen. "It all depends on what the bankruptcy court is willing to approve as far as restructuring," says Dan Fasulo, managing director for New York-based research firm Real Capital Analytics. "There's a lot of debt on that portfolio. The debt holders are going to accept equity in return to bring this back into health."