Fresh from winning the battle for Midwest Airlines, Texas Pacific Group or TPG, with "passive" backing from its silent ally, Northwest Airlines, was true to form. One of its partners, Richard Schifter, told analysts on a webcast that TPG will eventually seek an exit strategy from its new property, as it does with other investments. “Our history in the airline industry has been that our investments tend to be over several years,” such as its investment in the old America West Airlines. TPG gradually sold off that stake over more than a decade and its initial $66 million stake in the carrier ended up giving the group a profit of more than $600 million. It's likely that it will do the same with its Burger King holding some day. Among TPG’s options for Midwest , said Schifter, are cashing out by a flotation or initial public offering of the carrier, or selling out its controlling stake. “It is clear that Northwest is a passive, minority investor”, Schifter told reporters and analysts, adding, “But by no means is that the exclusive scenario". TPG is a bridge, in a sense, between owners, as its corporate symbol (above, left) suggests.
Northwest Airlines’ “passive” stake had raised eyebrows, but Schifter (left) and Midwest chairman Tim Hoeksema (right) were either downright or subtly evasive when asked just how much of Midwest would be owned by Northwest as part of the deal. Hoeksema said, “You’ll have to ask Northwest” and Schifter flat out refused comment. Northwest was mum as well. In any case, Schifter said, it could be several years before TPG Capital sells its stake. Midwest though is serious about the deal: it agreed to pay a “break-up” penalty of $13.5 million if it backs out of its agreement to be acquired by TPG, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That is 3% of the face value of the deal; Hoeksema wasn’t worried about regulators or competition authorities blocking the deal. “Hey, we’re less than 1% of the airline business in the country”. Hey, Tim, if it’s such a little property, why was the deal so difficult?