Matt Desch, chairman and CEO of satellite services provider Iridium Holdings LLC, never imagined that Michael Price would one day work for him. Desch first met Price in 1998, when Desch was president of Nortel Networks Corp. and Price was heading telecom company FirstMark Communications Europe SA, which was a Nortel client. "I was his customer then, and now he's our customer," says Price, now a senior managing director at Evercore Partners Inc.
Indeed. Evercore just advised Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium in a reverse merger valued at $591 million with GHL Acquisition Corp., announced Sept. 23. GHL is a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, created by New York-based Greenhill & Co.
"We've been working with Matt since he became CEO of Iridium [in 2006] on financing alternatives for the company," says Price, who led an Evercore team including Daniel Mendelow, Alison Fournier, Gerardo Mendez and Melody Koh on the deal.
Last October, Iridium hired Evercore, along with Fieldstone Partners Inc., a Houston-based M&A advisory boutique headed by Steve Cook, who knows Iridium board members, including its former chairman, Dan Colussy. The two firms set out to seek capital raising alternatives, which included an eventual initial public offering. But talks with various buyout firms fizzled in the new year as the credit crisis worsened.
Evercore recommended that Iridium consider a SPAC as a less risky way to finance the next phase of its satellite network, and Greenhill's was the top candidate. Price is friends with Bob Niehaus, the chairman of Greenhill Capital Partners LLC, whom he worked with at Morgan Stanley in the 1980s. Greenhill's co-CEO, Scott Bok, and Ulrika Ekman, its co-head of U.S. M&A, headed the deal.
"As a prospective partner, Iridium found us," says Bok. "What we like about this is it's a company in early stages with a wonderful track record." GHL has been looking for potential investments since mid-February after raising $400 million.
GHL Acquisition tapped Duff & Phelps LLC's managing director Josh Benn and director John Secor for a fairness opinion.
For legal advice, Duff & Phelps used Dechert LLP's Charles Weissman and Derek Winokur, while GHL Acquisition tapped Davis Polk & Wardwell's John Knight, Deanna Kirkpatrick, Leonard Kreynin, John McLoughlin, Mark Mendez, Amelia Starr and William Weigel.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP's Edward Chung, Tristan Brown and Robert Holo were counsel to Iridium, with the contact made through Iridium chief legal and administrative officer John Brunette.