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Southern Park Mall owner exits bankruptcy; DeBartolo Commons opens

BOARDMAN — Washington Prime Group, the Columbus-based owner / operator of Southern Park Mall and about 100 other retail centers across the U.S., has emerged from bankruptcy a leaner, more stable company.

The company restructured its finances and implemented a reorganization plan, led by global investment firm SVPGlobal, that received wide support from Washington Prime Group’s creditors and equity holders. The plan was approved by a bankruptcy judge in Texas.

It leaves Chapter 11 with its debt reduced by nearly $1 billion and in a stronger liquidity position, according to the company.

“Operating as a private holding company, majority owned by SVPGlobal, WPG will be well positioned to capitalize on opportunities to improve its portfolio and to strengthen its relationships with guests, tenants, lenders, partners and other constituents,” a company release states.

In early September the company announced it would voluntarily delist shares of its common and preferred stock from the New York Stock Exchange and become a private company.

With exiting bankruptcy, there is a leadership change; Lou Conforti stepped down as chief executive Thursday. He will remain on in advisory role.

He will be replaced in the interim by Mark Yale, Washington Prime’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Josh Lindimore, the company’s executive vice president, head of leasing.

The company and some of its affiliates filed for bankruptcy in June after coming to terms on restructuring support agreements with creditors that held large percentages of Washington Prime’s debt and unsecured notes. It also obtained debtor-in-possession financing of $100 million to continue to operate.

The dominoes started to fall in February when the company missed a $23.2 million loan payment. It later entered in forbearance agreements with some of its creditors and noteholders that were extended several times to stave off bankruptcy and default, but the company eventually succumbed to Chapter 11.

Chapter 11 allows a company to reorganize its affairs, debts and assets.

Throughout the financial restructuring, the company kept working on a $30 million investment at Southern Park Mall. The centerpiece is DeBartolo Commons, a 4-acre outdoor athletic and entertainment green space and event venue on the south side of the mall that opens today in tune with the mall’s third annual Community Day.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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