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Fairholme's Buffett-Like Deal with AmeriCredit

Michael Breen

Michael Breen: Another interesting position, and I know you can't go into detail because you're on the board now, is AmeriCredit Finance ACF, where you did some swapping of debt, I believe, for equity, and have a very substantial ownership in the firm. So there's also some opportunities like that. Maybe in general you could just...

Bruce Berkowitz: I think, in general, before I went on the board we did a nice deal with AmeriCredit, where the securitization markets were totally frozen. And it's still out to a large extent for non-AAA paper. We were able to help them securitize their sub-prime loans. And we were able to achieve an 18% yield to maturity, secured by those loans for our shareholders. It was about $130-odd million face value. And on top of that we were able to get a $50 million corporate guarantee from the company.

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That was one phase of what we did. The other phase was to make it easier for the company, to help them de-lever a bit we took some of our senior debt and exchanged it for new equity in the company in order for them to strengthen their equity base.

We liked the company ahead of time. I feel good, I'm on the board.

Michael: That is sort of more of an old school sort of Buffett-esque type of deal. More of a partnership type of thing where you have a mutually beneficial situation for the next couple of years. They get liquidity, you get a little...

Bruce: And this is also really where it's important we have good management. For example, United Rentals will eventually have to do something, but they stopped us. They basically gave us a bit of a poison pill change, lowering the amount of equity we can buy. The trick to a highly leveraged company is shrink, use the cash, de-lever, either by exchanging debt for equity or even buying debt back at a significant discount. And then when the economy picks up they'll be just fine.