SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Facilities

Turnarounds turn into a specialty for Global Spectrum

Global Spectrum helped the owners of the Memphis Redbirds restore financial order.
Global Specturm has developed a reputation for rescuing sports venues in deep financial straits. In the past six years, the firm has helped turn things around for building owners at the Rose Garden, AutoZone Park and Sears Centre, a midsize arena in suburban Chicago.

In Memphis, the nonprofit group that owns the Class AAA Redbirds and AutoZone Park and ran the stadium hired Global Spectrum in July 2009 to manage the facility after defaulting on its obligation to pay off the bonds sold to finance construction.

“We built the park first class and spent a ton of money and incurred a lot of debt,” said John Pontius, treasurer of the Memphis Redbirds Foundation. “Then, after the newness wore off and the attendance dropped a little bit, the business model would not support that level of debt.”

Halfway through Global’s three-year contract, foundation officials think they can dig out of their hole on the $72 million park. Private equity firm Fundamental Advisors bought the outstanding bonds last fall, a move that could serve as a bridge to sell the team, Pontius said.

Global Spectrum did its part to restore financial order by doing things as simple as improving the quality and timeliness of the park’s accounting records and determining which facility upgrades could be made without piling too much onto the park’s existing debt.

“When you operate in financial distress, you take a lot of shortcuts,” Pontius said. “They helped us rationalize some of the steps we were taking and brought credibility to what was otherwise a contentious relationship between the foundation and the bondholders.”

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