Global Eagle files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

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WASHINGTON — Global Eagle Entertainment, a provider of media services and satellite Wi-Fi to aircraft, boats and remote locations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 22, citing the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on global travel. 

The Los Angeles-based company, which has close to $1.1 billion in debt, said around half a dozen of its lenders have agreed to form a joint entity that will acquire Global Eagle’s main assets for $675 million. 

The lenders will provide Global Eagle with $80 million of debtor-in-possession financing to continue operations during the sale process, according to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Global Eagle’s list of top unsecured creditors includes satellite operators SES ($26.6 million), Intelsat ($9.8 million), Yahsat ($3.6 million), Hughes Network Systems ($3.1 million) Telesat ($2.5 million), Arabsat ($1 million) and AsiaSat ($960,000). The nine-year-old company used satellite capacity to connect 1,022 active aircraft and 440 active cruise ships, ferries and yachts in 2019. 

Most of Global Eagle’s airline and cruise line customers have sharply reduced or altogether stopped operations in several markets the company serves, hampering revenue, Global Eagle said. The company reported a $153 million loss in 2019, and negative cash flows compounded by its debt. 

Global Eagle said it will continue serving customers throughout its bankruptcy proceedings, and expects to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of the year with $475 million less debt. 

“While we made important progress last year managing our cash flow and reducing operating expenses, we have been particularly impacted by COVID-19-related travel restrictions and demand declines in both airline and cruise end-markets,” Joshua Marks, Global Eagle’s chief executive, said in a news release. “We expect to emerge from this process with a stronger balance sheet, significantly reduced debt and substantial liquidity, well-positioned to continue supporting our global customers into the future.”

Global Eagle’s competitors in the inflight connectivity market have also been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic. Gogo said in March it was renegotiating satellite capacity contracts to align with reduced travel, and in April Panasonic Avionics laid off 223 employees in California.

The lenders forming a to-be-named entity to buy Global Eagle include Apollo Global Management, Arbour Lane Capital Management, Eaton Vance Management, Mudrick Capital Management, Sound Point Capital Management and certain funds and accounts overseen by BlackRock Financial Management.

Global Eagle had $630.5 million in assets and 1,115 employees at the time of its bankruptcy filing. The company said its future owners intend to provide a $125 million credit facility as exit financing upon completion of its restructuring.