By Paul Rosta, Senior Editor
General Growth Properties Inc.’s improbable fight to survive is about to become a reality. Eighteen months after becoming one of the biggest firms in U.S. history to go bankrupt, the second-largest U.S. retail REIT United States is only weeks away from emerging from Chapter 11 reorganization.
General Growth’s reorganization plan has received approval from Judge Allan Gropper of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Southern District of New York. The company will officially emerge from bankruptcy around Nov. 8. “We are now prepared to begin a new era for GGP on firm financial footing,” declared company CEO Adam Metz in a statement.
The judge’s approval caps the remarkable journey General Growth has taken since filing for bankruptcy in April 2009. At the time, the REIT was staggering under the weight of $27 billion worth of debt, some of it resulting from its 2004 acquisition of the mall owner Rouse Co. As loan maturities loomed, the frozen debt markets made refinancing impossible.
Since then, General Growth has raised $6.8 billion in equity commitments from Brookfield Asset Management, Fairholme Funds, Pershing Square Capital Management, the Blackstone Group and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The company has also restructured $15 billion worth of project-level debt.
The company will have a new look once bankruptcy is behind it. Under the General Growth name, the company will continue to own and operate its 200 million-square-foot portfolio that encompasses 185 regional malls in 43 states. GGP’s portfolio of master-planned communities and developable land will be owned by the Howard Hughes Corp. Current shareholders will get common stock in both companies.