Billionaire Backs Bankruptcy Bid

Private-equity firm enters industry, changes Crescent Oil name to Sunshine Energy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One of the richest men in the United States has entered the convenience store industry. After six months of bankruptcy court hearings and dueling lawsuits between the previous owners, Crescent Oil Co. stores are now in the hands of a new owner, an investment trust called Florida Sunshine Investments I Inc. and its major investor Jeff Greene, No. 355 on the 2008 Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.

An auction for Crescent Oil Co. Inc.'s assets was held on Aug. 13, 2009, in Kansas City, Mo., resulting in multiple rounds of competitive bidding. [image-nocss] As reported in a CSP Daily News Flash yesterday, on Aug. 14, 2009, the Kansas City Division of the District of Kansas' U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of substantially all of Crescent Oil's assets to Florida Sunshine Investments I Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., and Greene. The transaction is expected to close on or before Sept. 4, 2009.

"We're right now working on plans to reimage and relaunch our stores division," Bret Berlin, president of Florida Sunshine Investment Group, told CSP Daily News, "and I think we can expect great things as we take the company out of bankruptcy and into the future."

Berlin said he'll drop the Crescent Oil name and rename the company Sunshine Energy. "We're working very closely with the professionals at Crescent Oil to grow the company," he said on the private equity firm for which this is the first venture into the energy field. "We're in acquisition mode and looking to acquire other sites and other companies."

Berlin did not discuss the company's association with Greene, saying, "I don't talk about our investors," but Greene was among the signatories on the bid documents. Prior to the deal, he was a property owner for some of the Crescent Oil sites operated on a lease basis.
In its Forbes 400 coverage in September 2008, the magazine dubbed Greene an eccentric and reluctant millionaire, noting, "Greene got rich investing in real estate and superrich betting against it. These days he's buying distressed assets and hoarding cash."

The piece said the 53-year-old Greene was worth $1.4 billion at the time and that he made his money in real estate and investments.Click here to read the complete Forbes story.
Crescent Oil in 2008 began looking for an equity partner to help fund expansion, which led then-president Phil Near to a meeting with executives of Titan Global Holdings Inc., who touted their apparent success with Blountville, Tenn.-based Appalachian Oil Co. (Appco) as an example of what Titan could do, and expressed a desire to merge Crescent and Appco. Titan acquired Crescent Oil in January 2009. Crescent Oil filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 7, 2009.

Through a lawsuit filed in May in federal court in Kansas, Near alleged that Titan executives committed fraud and breached its contract and promises to him, and that they "have pilfered the Crescent Cos. of assets and cash and left Near on the hook for it all." The suit also alleges that they drove Crescent into bankruptcy.

Appco, which had been purchased by Titan in September 2007, filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 9, 2009.Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage of Titan, Crescent Oil and Appco.

Matrix Capital Markets Group Inc. was engaged by the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Crescent Oil Co. Inc., et al., in Crescent's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to ensure that the highest and best price would be obtained through the sale process being executed by the debtor.

In 2008, Independence, Kansas-based Crescent Oil sold more than 237 million gallons of motor fuels through wholesale and consignment fuels supply contracts with dealers and sold more than 47 million gallons of motor fuels and $15 million of merchandise through its retail stores. About 30 sites were sold to Florida Sunshine Investments I Inc. through the court and auction proceedings.

While Florida Sunshine Investment was the successful bidder, the second-highest bidder was stalking horse American Fuel Distributors, Dallas. As such, American Fuel will be paid a $300,000 break-up fee at the closing of the sale, according to bankruptcy court documents.

"We are extremely pleased our efforts in this case significantly helped the debtor in obtaining an offer that, when it closes, will result in excellent value for its assets," said Tom Kelso, a managing director and principal at Matrix.

As an expert on the sale of retail and wholesale gasoline distributors and convenience-store chains in the United States, from having advised on more than 50 transactions in the industry, Richmond, Va.-based Matrix consulted with the committee on matters relating to valuation, prospective buyers, sale process, contract negotiations, auction process and the selection of the winning bidder.

Other professionals representing the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the case include Francis Lawall, Pepper Hamilton LLP, counsel to the committee and Monty Kehl, Mesirow Financial Consulting LLC, financial advisors to the committee.

Matrix's Energy & Multi-Site Retail Group provides transactional advisory services to companies in the downstream energy and multi-site retail sectors. Team members are dedicated to these sectors and draw upon complementary experiences to provide advisory services to complete sophisticated merger and acquisition transactions, private debt and equity raises, corporate restructurings and corporate valuation and long-term planning engagements.