In more than a decade running an entertainment company in Hollywood, Ryan Kavanaugh has repeatedly defied predictions of the demise of his Relativity Media, finding new investors when the company’s finances appeared most grim. Kavanaugh seems to have done it again this week, when one investor belatedly balked at making a $30 million infusion into the bankrupt entertainment company, only to be replaced by another partner.
A court filing in the wee hours of Thursday morning shows that Joseph G. Nicholas, founder of a Chicago firm that analyzes hedge funds, will pump $29 million into Relativity — money that will go to pay off senior lenders and allow Kavanaugh to maintain his leadership of the company, minus its television division. The same court papers show that Kavanaugh will commit $1 million toward completing the transaction.
The new cash arrives only a few days after VII Peaks Capital of Orinda, Calif. privately expressed reservations about re-upping with Relativity, after putting a reported $12.5 million into the company not long before its July 30 bankruptcy filing. VII Peaks has declined to comment, but court documents from Relativity showed that the San Francisco Bay Area firm wanted assurances about where it stood in line for eventual repayment, as well as a second seat on the Relativity board and a guarantee of five slots per year for it to release films.
Relativity’s lawyers argued that VII Peaks had signed an agreement in early October to invest the $30 million on an “absolute and unconditional basis.” The entertainment company behind films like “Act of Valor” and “The Fighter” asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael Wiles to take action to assure that the $30 million would be available for the transaction. VII Peaks’ lawyer said at a hearing Tuesday that the firm still hoped to close the deal, if certain “wrinkles” could be worked out. Wiles set a hearing on the dispute for Tuesday.
In the meantime, Nicholas has stepped forward. Sources inside Relativity said that Nicholas is similar to other post-bankruptcy investors in the company in that he had also put money into Kavanaugh’s company prior to the Chapter 11 filing. The sources, who declined to be named, said they believed the investors were willing to re-up with Relativity and Kavanaugh because they believe they have no other hope of recouping some of their earlier payments.
A Relativity spokesman said Nicholas declined to comment for this story.
The entrepreneur founded Hedge Fund Research in 1993. The Chicago-based firm describes itself as “a global leader in the areas of indexation and analysis of hedge funds.” The firm’s website says the HFR Database “includes fund‐level detail on historical performance and assets, as well as quantitative and qualitative information on thousands of hedge funds.” The site also describes the related HFR Asset Management, LLC, which it calls “the investment manager of separately managed transparent single manager and multiple manager hedge funds.”
Nicholas’s biography describes him as the author of several books, including “Hedge Fund of Funds Investing,” “Market Neutral Investing” and “Investing in Hedge Funds.” He received a B.S. degree in finance from DePaul University and a law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law.
Nicholas, who works out of Miami, has kept a low profile and made no public comment about his entry into Hollywood. He appeared with Kavanaugh at a reception in Relativity’s offices earlier this month to celebrate the bankruptcy court’s approval of the sale of the company’s television division.