Leucadia National Corporation (NYSE: LUK) and Jefferies Group have approved a definitive merger agreement under which Jefferies’ shareholders (other than Leucadia, which currently owns approximately 28.6% of the Jefferies outstanding shares) will receive 0.81 of a share of Leucadia common stock for each share of Jefferies common stock they hold.
This exchange is intended to be tax-free to Jefferies’ shareholders.
The merger, which is expected to close during the first quarter of 2013, is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval to effect the merger by both Leucadia and Jefferies shareholders.
In order to avert the possibility that the transaction would result in the application of tax law limitations to the use of certain of Leucadia’s tax attributes, the merger agreement limits the amount of Leucadia shares that can be issued to certain persons that would otherwise become holders of 5% of the combined Leucadia’s common shares by reason of the merger.
Concurrently with the execution of the merger agreement, Leucadia, Richard Handler, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Jefferies, and Brian Friedman, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Jefferies and one of its Directors, have each agreed pursuant to separate voting agreements, among other things, to vote their respective shares in favour of the transaction; and Ian Cumming, Leucadia’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, and Joseph Steinberg, Leucadia’s President and one of its Directors, have each agreed pursuant to separate voting agreements, among other things, to vote their respective shares in favor of the transaction. These voting agreements represent approximately 18.3% and 31.5% of the outstanding shares of Leucadia and Jefferies, respectively.
Handler will become the Chief Executive Officer of Leucadia, as well as one of its Directors, and also remain Jefferies’ Chief Executive Officer and Chairman; Friedman will become Leucadia’s President and one of its Directors, and also remain Chairman of the Executive Committee of Jefferies; and Steinberg will become Chairman of the Board of Leucadia and will continue to work full time as an executive of Leucadia. Cumming will retire as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Leucadia upon the closing of the transaction and remain a Leucadia Director. The other Leucadia officers will continue in their present positions.
In addition, the four independent members of the Board of Directors of Jefferies also will join the Leucadia Board of Directors; the size of the Leucadia Board of Directors will be increased to fourteen.
Leucadia will continue to operate in its current form, except that the merger agreement contemplates that Leucadia’s Crimson Wine Group, with a book value of USD197 million, will be spun out in a distribution that is intended to be tax-free to current Leucadia shareholders prior to the completion of the merger.
Jefferies, which will be the largest business of Leucadia, will continue to operate as a full-service global investment banking firm in its current form. Jefferies will retain a credit rating that is separate from Leucadia’s. Jefferies’ existing long-term debt will remain outstanding and Jefferies intends to remain an SEC reporting company, regularly filing annual, quarterly, and periodic financial reports.
Following the transaction, 35.3% of Leucadia’s common stock will be owned by Jefferies’ shareholders (excluding the Jefferies shares owned today by Leucadia and including Jefferies vested restricted stock units). Leucadia’s Board of Directors has approved a new share repurchase program authorizing the repurchase from time to time of up to an aggregate of 25 million Leucadia common shares, inclusive of prior authorizations. Leucadia’s Board also has indicated its intention to continue to pay dividends at the annual rate of $0.25 per common share, but on a quarterly basis following the merger.
Cumming says: “Joe and I have been partners for 34 years. He will be Chairman of the Board of the combined enterprise. His role as Chairman of the Board, along with other Leucadia and Jefferies Directors, will ensure continuity and propel our continued success. Rich and Brian managing the company will bring to fruition the abundant and profitable opportunities that will be realized by this merger. My relationship with Rich and Brian, both as advisors and, more recently, as business partners and Jefferies Directors, showed me they can manage Leucadia profitably long into the future. Their ability to manage and grow Jefferies through the elongated financial bubble, successfully navigate the crises that followed where others could not, and protect the firm from the attacks based on false information exactly one year ago with deftness and grace, should comfort all!”
Steinberg says: “I am absolutely thrilled that Rich and Brian will be joining me as we move forward with our combined company. Ian and I have enjoyed working together for 34 years. He invited me into Leucadia and to be his partner. I am forever grateful for that opportunity. Our partnership produced great returns for shareholders and we have had a lot of fun. I expect that Rich and Brian will continue on the same track and intend to help in every way.”
Handler says: “Having known Joe and Ian for over two decades, this transaction represents the realisation of a personal dream for me. Brian and I look forward to leading Leucadia, while continuing to serve as the hands-on management of Jefferies, which will become Leucadia's largest operating company. This merger will allow us to continue to create long-term value for all of our clients, shareholders, employee-partners and bondholders. I am honored with the trust and confidence Ian and Joe are demonstrating by allowing us to carry on their life's work.”
Mr. Friedman said: “This merger will allow us to operate from a position of even greater strength, take advantage of opportunities that arise in and around the business of Jefferies, and continue Leucadia’s longstanding practice of smart value acquisitions and investments. Our substantial combined equity base, ample liquidity and long-term focus will all support meaningful long-term value creation for Leucadia and Jefferies’ shareholders. We also view with great enthusiasm the opportunity to work with Leucadia management, who have been instrumental in helping Ian and Joe achieve Leucadia’s exceptional track record, as well as the management teams of each of the companies in which Leucadia is invested.”
Jefferies & Company, acted as financial advisors to Jefferies. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. acted as financial advisors and provided a fairness opinion to the Transaction Committee of the Jefferies Board of Directors (“Transaction Committee”), and J.P. Morgan acted as financial advisors to Jefferies. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius acted as legal advisors to Jefferies, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz acted as legal advisors to the Transaction Committee. Rothschild acted as financial advisors to Leucadia, and UBS Investment Bank acted as financial advisors and provided a fairness opinion to the Leucadia Board of Directors. Weil Gotshal & Manges acted as legal advisors to Leucadia, and Proskauer Rose LLP acted as legal advisors to the Leucadia Board of Directors.