|PE Auction Stars|
Yet here was Mizuho acting as joint bookrunner on a $2.25 billion reserve-based credit facility, $2.25 billion in bridge financing and $2.25 billion in 9.75% senior notes due in 2020.
The Tokyo-based bank was instrumental in bringing in Japanese trading giant Itochu Corp. as KKR's co-investor. Mizuho understood the potential value that Samson offers to Itochu, which invests in everything from textiles to energy to technology. For KKR, Itochu promised to be a reliable partner in an equity partnership said to be worth nearly $3.3 billion.
"The overall deal had a relatively large equity check associated with it. For any sponsor to have that large of a single equity investment, most folks would look to bring in a partner," says William Getz, managing director and head of Mizuho's U.S. acquisition finance group, who also manages relationships with private equity groups.
In Samson's case, he says, "Itochu is a strategic investor that brings more to the table than just financial capital."
Getz was Mizuho's point person on the deal, working mostly below the radar. He was hired in 2007 to help the bank gear up in the U.S., where it wants to be more than a bit player.
Samson was clearly Mizuho's coming-out deal on the LBO front.
"We were certainly all ears and willing to try to work with them," says KKR Capital Markets head Craig Farr, who has worked with Getz at Mizuho. "Bill has done a nice job of having them be extremely responsive in a world that's very tricky in getting credit approvals and deals done."
Historically, Farr elaborates, U.S. firms have been reluctant to work with banks whose headquarters are offshore because it slows the approvals process. "Bill has the leveraged finance experience in the U.S., so having someone like him is critical," Farr adds.
A University of Chicago Booth School of Business graduate, Getz started his career at Prudential Securities Inc., then helped co-found the financial sponsors group at Lehman Brothers Inc., afterward moving to Bear Stearns Cos., where he targeted private equity sellers.
In the wake of Sept. 11, Getz got caught in the 2002 wave of layoffs. Eventually, he found work in Chicago at Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., where he stayed for several years until being lured by RBC Capital Markets. That turned out to be a brief stint before Mizuho poached him.
"It was a greenfield effort," Getz says of his mission. "What was exciting was the fact that the bank is one of the biggest in the world.
It has proved to be a very safe institution to be at," he says, with a nod to two prior, now-defunct employers.
Mizuho was ready to bring its depth of experience in Europe and Asia to bear on U.S. activity, a task that quickly proved a challenge, given the timing.
"The business started to get ramped up in 2007, then the market cracked," Getz recalls.
As deals slowly picked up, Mizuho carved a reputation as a reliable lender with global heft and reach. In 2011 alone, it was a joint bookrunner or co-manager on six multibillion-dollar deals, including KKR's acquisition of Capsugel and Blackstone Group LP's new credit facility for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Mizuho was the lead arranger for $1.1 billion in Capsugel senior secured credit facilities.
Mizuho owes its success thus far in part to its strategy of passing on deals it wouldn't bet its own money on, Getz says. The bank maintains a meaningful stake -- between $10 million and $40 million of a traditional LBO credit -- on any mandates it takes.
"We want to make the case that investors are aware we stand by the credits that we underwrite; we never sell down to a zero hold," he says.
Is it lucky or just smart? Getz adds: "Probably a little of both."