Catalina, one of Tampa Bay's largest private companies, files for bankruptcy.

Local marketing company Catalina has made some moves that indicate it will be filing for bankruptcy.
Local marketing company Catalina has made some moves that indicate it will be filing for bankruptcy.
Published Dec. 13, 2018

One of Tampa Bay's largest private companies has filed for bankruptcy.

The St. Petersburg-based marketing firm Catalina filed to restructure using Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

There had been rumblings for some time that the company was struggling with debt. In a news release Wednesday, the company said it had reached agreements with most of its lenders.

"The agreement will allow Catalina to significantly enhance its financial flexibility, reducing its debt by approximately $1.6 billion and positioning the company for long-term success," the company said. "Catalina expects all operations — both in the U.S. and overseas — to continue as usual throughout the restructuring process. There will be no interruption in Catalina's ability to serve its customers."

Catalina is often remembered for doling out cash register coupons. It has been transitioning to using data to help its clients turn shoppers into buyers and boost consumer loyalty.

The company has said in the past that it was working to restructure its balance sheet as it shifts to being more digitally focused.

Bloomberg Law reported in late November that executives with Checkout Holding Corp., Catalina's official corporate name, were preparing "to file for bankruptcy before the end of the year to lighten its debt load of about $1.8 billion." The debt was "hobbling" the company's shift from providing checkout coupons to the digital age, according to the Bloomberg Law report.

"Today's announcement represents a significant step forward in transforming our business because it enables us to accelerate investments in technology, advanced analytics, data science and talent to strengthen our core capabilities and enable new data-driven solutions for our customers," said Catalina's president and CEO Jerry Sokol. "After carefully evaluating our options, we determined that a court-supervised restructuring is the best way to strengthen our financial position for the long term."

According to the bankruptcy filings, Catalina's top five creditors were based in New York City: Crescent Mezzanine Partners ($200 million), NPS/Crescent Strategic Partnership ($85.1 million), AlpInvest Partners Mezzanine Co-Investments ($50 million), GoldPoint Mezzanine Partners ($48 million), and Nielsen Catalina Solutions ($3.5 million).

Sokol took over Catalina's top job in October, after working as Amtrak's chief financial officer. Before that, he was the chief financial officer and then CEO of Vertis Communications, a printing and targeted direct marketing company.

Sokol said he expects the bankruptcy to help Catalina reduce its debt by more than 75 percent.

"Catalina has strong operations, solid cash flow and adequate liquidity, and we remain focused on continuing to solve customer challenges," he said. "We appreciate the strong support of our customers, the cooperation of our business partners and, above all, the continued dedication of our employees as we move through this process."

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Once publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, Catalina was taken private in 2007 in a $1.7 billion deal. In 2014, Boston investment firm Berkshire Partners LLC bought Catalina, which at the time employed 1,350 people. The terms were not disclosed but reports suggested the sellers were seeking $2.5 billion.

Contact Graham Brink at Follow @GrahamBrink.