Elliott Pushes for Speedy Trial to Save $1.7 Billion Deal

Elliott Pushes for Speedy Trial to Save $1.7 Billion Wex Deal

Elliott Management Corp.’s Travelport unit is pushing for a speedy trial to save its $1.7 billion deal with Wex Inc., a transaction that’s on the verge of collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawyers for Travelport told a London court Thursday that the deal likely can’t be salvaged if the case isn’t resolved by October. Wex plans to abandon the acquisition of a pair of the company’s travel-payments businesses as a result of the virus.

Travelport’s suit is the first in the U.K. to consider whether the virus justifies giving up on a previously agreed contract. Covid-19 has brought the travel industry to a virtual halt, grounding planes and shuttering hotels around the globe.

The company, which is owned by Elliott’s private-equity arm along with affiliates of Siris Capital Group LLC, says Wex should be required to go through with the purchase.

“This is a very high-value commercial transaction,” Travelport’s lawyers said. If the dispute isn’t resolved before Oct. 27, then it “is at real risk of being lost altogether.”

The deadline stems from a debt commitment letter between Wex, Bank of America Corp., and other lenders, which lapses on Oct. 27. The letter guarantees Wex’s ability to fund the acquisition, Travelport said.

Travelport is seeking a declaration from a judge that the pandemic didn’t create a “material adverse effect” on the deal. Wex’s lawyer, Sonia Tolaney, said that Travelport shouldn’t be given special treatment and described their suggested timetable for the trial as “utterly unrealistic.”

Although Travelport asked for a five-day trial starting Sept. 3, the judge ruled in Wex’s favor for the trial to begin Sept. 21. Travelport had argued that letting the case go until then wouldn’t leave any time for appeals before the deadline.

The judge agreed to hear arguments that if Travelport wins, it can ask for an order to force Wex to complete the deal. The judge also said that the timetable gave sufficient time for an appeal if necessary, provided the Court of Appeal was also prepared to expedite.

Both companies declined to comment.

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