William Blair Hires High-Yield Finance Team from Imperial Capital

William Blair has hired a high-yield finance team from Imperial Capital in the firm’s bid to become the leading leveraged finance platform focused on middle market companies.

Jeff Zolkin joined William Blair as managing director, head of high-yield finance. He will be based in Los Angeles. At Imperial Capital, Zolkin was head of leveraged finance. Prior to six years at Imperial Capital, Zolkin also worked at Global Hunter Securities, where he was co-head of financial advisory services. He also worked at Jefferies.

Jonathan Lee joined William Blair as director, high-yield finance. He will be based in Los Angeles. Lee had been at Imperial Capital since early 2011. Prior to Imperial, he also worked at Trinity Capital and Jefferies, both based in Los Angeles.

Paul Majeski joined as vice president, high-yield finance. He will be based in New York. He had been at Imperial Capital since 2010 in investment banking. Prior to Imperial Capital, he worked at FTI Consulting.

Kelly Martin is head of leveraged finance at William Blair.

Since 2011, Zolkin’s team has built a high-yield finance business targeting the middle market, with over $5 billion of lead-managed financings over 30 transactions.

William Blair, based in Chicago, is a global investment banking and asset management firm. — Abby Latour

Follow Abby and LCD News on Twitter.

This story first appeared on, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence. LCD’s subscription site offers complete news, analysis and data covering the global leveraged loan and high yield bond markets. You can learn more about LCD here.


Claire’s announces PIK exchange of notes held by Apollo, CEO resigns

Claire’s Stores has entered into an agreement with funds managed by affiliates of Apollo to swap out their subordinated debt holdings for new PIK notes.

The agreement comes after the company’s equity sponsor acquired a significant portion of the existing debt through open market purchases, a move that would potentially give Apollo a greater position around the bargaining table in the event of a bankruptcy filing.

According to an 8-K form filed with the SEC, the company has agreed to exchange $174.4 million held by the funds of the $259.6 million 10.5% senior subordinated notes due 2017 for new $174.4 million of 10.5% PIK subordinated notes due 2017.

The new notes will be paid in kind with respect to the June 1 coupon, and may be PIK, paid in cash, or 50/50 on the Dec. 1, 2016 interest payment. Though the company will save some cash through this exchange, analysts at Citi expressed concern that this could suggest a need for liquidity to stay compliant with the first-lien leverage ratio, and also that Apollo is not jumping to equitize the subordinated notes, which has been part of its base case scenario.

Claire’s also announced today the appointment of Ron Marshall as its new CEO. Commenting on the hire, Citi Analysts note that Marshall has been at the helm of a number of struggling companies that no longer exist in their original form, including A&P, Pathmark, and Borders.

“We view both pieces of today’s news as potentially tactical on the sponsor’s part in terms of the decision and timing, as lower bond prices are preferable in the event Apollo buys back more bonds (to gain control elsewhere in structure and more optionality) or attempts to negotiate with existing lenders,” Citi analyst Jenna Giannelli said in a note.

“Our thesis has been one in which Apollo utilizes its leverage as the majority owner of the ’17s and agrees to equitize, in exchange for cooperation with existing lenders elsewhere in the capital structure. We don’t think it makes sense for the Sponsor to tap into the small basket available at International subs, given the little value it would recover on the notes, still looming ’19 maturities and over levered structure,” Giannelli said.

The first-lien 9% notes due 2019 traded down 2.5 points, at 67.5, trade data show. Unsecured 8.875% notes due 2019 were trading in small batches in the high 20s, which is unchanged from recent valuation, the data show.

Hoffman Estates, Ill.–based Claire’s Stores operates as a specialty retailer of fashionable jewelry and accessories for young women, teens, and children worldwide. The company was taken private by Apollo Management in early 2007 for roughly $3.3 billion. As of January 30, 2016, Claire’s total debt was approximately $2.41 billion, consisting of notes, U.S. credit facility, Europe credit facility, and a capital lease obligation. — Rachelle Kakouris


Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma benefit planned for May 24

The fifth annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma benefit and cocktail party is planned for May 24 at the Summer Garden and Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center. Funds raised at the event will support the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), the world’s largest private funder of melanoma research, which was founded in 2007 by Debra and Leon Black under the auspices of the Milken Institute.

Since this event was launched in 2012, the leveraged finance community has come together and generously supported over $5 million of cutting-edge cancer research. These funded studies have accelerated advances in immunotherapy treatments that have led to breakthroughs like anti-PD-1 agents which are being used to treat melanoma, were recently approved to treat lung cancer, and are now being tested in other tumors including bladder, blood, and kidney cancers.

The event co-hosts are Brendan Dillon from UBS; Lee Grinberg from Elliott Management; George Mueller from KKR; Jeff Rowbottom from PSP Investments; Cade Thompson from KKR; and Trevor Watt from Hellman & Friedman. Attendees include the biggest names in leveraged finance, from all of the top banks, many investment houses, several law firms, select issuers, and some private equity sponsors. As with the prior events, LCD is a proud sponsor.

Due to ongoing operational support from its founders, 100% of donations to MRA go directly to support research programs working toward a cure for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Since MRA began its work, 11 new treatments have been approved by the FDA.

Funds raised from prior year events have supported six MRA research awards at institutions spanning the U.S. These projects focus on targeted and immunotherapy treatments, which boost the immune system to fight off cancer more effectively. The studies address critical research questions to advance the development of new therapies for melanoma patients and inform progress against cancer as a whole.

“We’re making tremendous breakthroughs in understanding and treating melanoma, including several new therapies that could be game-changers for the entire field of oncology,” said Jeff Rowbottom, LFFM co-host and MRA board member. “The Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma events have supported important research that is enabling innovations in the way we treat cancer.”

The objectives for the 2016 LFFM event are to increase awareness, to raise funds to further advance research, and to save lives. Melanoma awareness and early detection are vital when it comes to combating the disease; if melanoma is detected early—before it has spread beyond the skin—it is almost always treatable. Past events have led to many members of the leveraged finance community seeing dermatologists for skin checks and even to the discovery and treatment of several early stage melanomas.

Tickets are $300. For further information about the event and to purchase tickets, please Those seeking information about the event and sponsorship opportunities can contact Rachel Gazzerro of MRA at (202) 336-8947 or [email protected]. — Staff reports


Distressed debt: Cerberus Taps Apollo’s Abrams to Expand Credit Platform

Cerberus Capital Management announced today that it has appointed David Abrams as senior managing director of Cerberus UK Advisors Ltd. in its London office.

Abrams will play a key role in expanding the firm’s credit platform, and will focus on pursuing unique and compelling distressed opportunities in the emerging markets, Europe, and other sectors of interest, the company said.

Abrams joins from Apollo Management, where he founded and was the managing partner of the Apollo European Principal Finance Funds franchise, which was primarily focused on acquiring distressed debt, real estate and non-performing loans. Prior to joining Apollo Management, Abrams was a managing director in the Leveraged Finance Group of Credit Suisse, based in London and New York.

Mark Neporent, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of Cerberus said: “David will enhance our strong European franchise and will help us further capitalize on the deleveraging of European financial institutions. David’s experience will greatly benefit us as we pursue this category across the continent and into the emerging markets.”

Cerberus—one of the largest and most active investors in European non-performing loans and other distressed credit—has more than $28 billion under management invested in four primary strategies: distressed securities and assets, control and non-control private equity, commercial mid-market lending, and real estate-related investments. — Rachelle Kakouris

Follow Rachelle on Twitter for distressed debt news and insight. 

This story was first published on LCD News. Check out for full leveraged loan and distressed debt coverage. 


Scientific Games bonds slip further on CFO resignation

Bonds backing Scientific Games slipped further today after the company announced the resignation of its Chief Financial Officer, Scott Schweinfurth, according to a company release. The 10% notes due 2022 shed 2.5 points to 77.625, yielding 15%, according to trade data. Meanwhile, sources quote the 7% notes due 2022 at 96/97, down from trades at 97.50 on Friday. The company’s shares are down nearly 4% at $7.62 today.

As reported last week, Scientific Games debt and equity came under pressure after the gaming technology company released third-quarter results that came in shy of Street expectations. The 10% notes, for instance, had been trading in the high 80s prior to the earnings release, before shedding five points on the results to the mid-80s and ending the week at an 80 context.

Loans backing Scientific Games are little changed today, with the B-2 tranche due 2021 (L+500, 1% LIBOR floor) recently marked at 92.75/93.75, though note the loan is about 5.5 points lower since the earnings release. According to the statement, Schweinfurth will continue in his role through the year-end financial audit and filing of its Form 10-K and the appointment of his successor.

Conditions are soft today in the high-yield market, with the cash market down about a quarter of a point and ETF sellers circulating, sources relay. The HY CDX 25 is quoted at 101.25, unchanged today, but down 1.3% week-over-week.

B+/B2 Scientific Games placed the $950 million issue of 7% secured notes and a $2.2 billion issue of 10% unsecured notes in November 2014 via a J.P. Morgan–steered underwriting team to help fund the Bally acquisition. The company also placed the $2 billion B-2 term loan in September 2014 to support the Bally transaction; the loan was issued at 99. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is administrative agent on the term loan. —Staff reports


BNP Paribas hires McHale as head of high-yield origination

BNP Paribas has hired James McHale for its Corporate Debt Origination group as the head of high-yield capital markets, according to the company.

McHale joins the firm from BMO Capital Markets.

In his new role, McHale will work to further expand the BNP’s presence in the high-yield space. He has executed more than 90 leveraged bond and loan transactions totaling more than $70 billion for non-investment grade clients.

McHale was previously a senior member of the leveraged finance group at BMO and had established the high-yield bond group in Canada. — Staff reports


BNP Paribas Hires McHale as Head of High-Yield Origination

BNP Paribas has hired James McHale for its Corporate Debt Origination group as the head of high-yield capital markets, according to the company.

McHale joins the firm from BMO Capital Markets.

In his new role, McHale will work to further expand the BNP’s presence in the high-yield space. He has executed more than 90 leveraged bond and loan transactions totaling more than $70 billion for non-investment grade clients.

McHale was previously a senior member of the leveraged finance group at BMO and had established the high-yield bond group in Canada. — Staff reports


Inaugural Paddle Battle Tournament charity event to be held on Nov 5

RBC Capital Markets is partnering with the private equity community to host an inaugural charity ping pong tournament to support NYC Youth, which will be held on Nov. 5, 2015.

The money raised by the event will be split evenly among four charity partners: Harlem RBI, The Opportunity Network, The TEAK Fellowship, and Youth INC. The winning two-person team of the tournament will receive a $25,000 grant in their name to a youth-oriented charity of their choice.

The Paddle Battle Tournament will be held at SPiN NYC on 23rd Street, beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. There will be a full bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres served.

Registration is open and teams should be finalized by Oct. 22. For more information and to register or donate, go to RBC Paddle Battle. — Staff reports


Nomura restructures credit trading and sales team

Nomura has restructured its high-yield bond and loan trading and sales groups following recent headcount cuts amid a more challenging market environment, as well as regulatory constraints impacting banks’ fixed-income desks.

The Japanese bank is bringing together its high-yield, distressed and loan trading desk to be headed up by Peter Chung, according to sources. Chung is currently executive director at Nomura’s high-yield and distressed trading desk in London.

The bank has also integrated the high-yield, investment-grade, distressed and loan sales team into one salesforce. This team will be headed up by Nick Oxlade, who currently is Nomura’s EMEA head of flow credit sales. Edward Grundy, head of high yield and distressed credit sales, is continuing to provide senior sales coverage for high yield and distressed debt.

The restructuring of the group comes after Nomura earlier this month announced a number of redundancies at its global markets business in London, which included scalebacks at its fixed income and credit default swaps divisions.

Banks are finding it increasingly challenging to generate stable income through high-yield trading as a result of Basel III capital requirements, as well as recent market volatility and bond market illiquidity, according to banking sources.

Banks’ fixed-income businesses are also hurt by the Mifid II regulation, which will require buyside clients to pay for research. Nomura’s fixed income revenues at the end of June fell by 16% year-on-year, to YEN84.1 billion. – Isabell Witt


BlackRock launches new European high-yield bond fund

BlackRock has launched the BlackRock Global Funds (BGF) European High Yield Bond Fund, which will be managed by Michael Phelps, head of European Fundamental Credit, and co-managed by Jose Aguilar, senior portfolio manager in European Fundamental Credit.

The fund will be benchmarked against the Barclays Pan European High Yield 3% Issuer Constrained Index. A minimum of 70% of the fund will be invested in non-investment grade bonds, and it will contain a diversified set of holdings across multiple sectors and geographies.

The BGF European High Yield Bond Fund complements the existing BGF range, which includes the BGF Global High Yield Bond Fund and the BGF US High Yield Bond Fund.

BlackRock’s global fixed income business manages $1.42 trillion on behalf of clients, with over 400 professionals providing expertise on research, portfolio management, risk management and quantitative analysis (as at 30 June 2015). – Luke Millar