Tradewinds – 23rd January 2020
UK shipowner adds eight ships in deal with Italian court
UK shipowner and private equity group Reuben Brothers (RB) has confirmed the acquisition of part of the fleet of bankrupt Italian shipowner Rizzo Bottiglieri De Carlini Armatori (RBD Armatori). It said it has formed a new company, RB|RD Armatori, with the participation of the Rizzo and De Carlini families, to take over the company and eight of the RBD ships.
The transaction was carried out under Italian bankruptcy law, under the supervision and approval of the Court of Torre Annunziata in Naples. “RB|RD’s proposal was seen by all the stakeholders, including but not limited to creditors and employees, to be the best possible outcome,” RB added. RB has got its hands on seven bulkers and a tanker as part of the deal. Five other RBD tankers were assigned to a major creditor controlled by KKR-backed Pillarstone.
Based in Naples
RB|RB will have its headquarters in the Naples region and will be a going concern as part of the wider RB organisation, which includes shipowning arm RB Shipping and the Management joint venture with UK owner British Marine called RB British Marine.
An RB spokesman told TradeWinds the ownership split is 75% for RB and 25% for the Italian families. “RB|RD is currently a separate platform but controlled by RB, where the RB team is currently implementing the RB procedures, reporting, etc on all fronts (operations, chartering, etc) and RB|RD will remain in the Naples region.”
RB|RD has also taken over the rest of the assets of RBD, including the iconic La Palma hotel in Capri that is now expected to undergo major refurbishment. The new company was assisted by a team of Italian and international lawyers lead by Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners (GOP).
RB already owns seven modern 81,000-dwt bulkers and has previously said it was planning to control a fleet of 50 ships, including managed units.
Backlash in Italy
It is controlled by publicity-shy, self-made billionaires David and Simon Reuben. Last year, Pillarstone’s acquisition of $350m of distressed Italian shipping debt and the cancellation of the fleet auction of RBD Armatori provoked a backlash in shipowning circles. Italian shipowning and financial sources believed banks had caved in by selling Italian shipping debt to private equity players on the basis of unrealistic expectations, TradeWinds reported.
A court auction of RBD’s fleet of 13 tankers and bulkers, as well as real estate interests, was scheduled for 22 February last year, but it was cancelled after private equity interests linked to RB were said to have stepped in with an estimated $300m offer. The move for the three aframaxes, three LR2s, three capesizes and four post-panamaxes was thought to pave a way back into shipping for former RBD managing director Giuseppe Rizzo.
Tangled history of failed sales
The Italian court had been trying to sell the ships since 2018, first at $200m, then $190m.
In 2017, Pillarstone had taken over €560m ($621m) of debt on the 13 vessels. The seven bulkers were all built between 2009 and 2011 in China, while the tankers are Chinese and Japanese built and were delivered between 2010 and 2012. The fleet had been valued at more than $270m by VesselsValue.
RBD went under after failing to reach an agreement with creditors. Foremost among those was Pillarstone. Local reports suggested that RBD’s total exposure to banks was in excess of $1bn.