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Cleared For Takeover?

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Unsecured creditors aren't happy, but Fort Worth investor David Bonderman may be in America West's pilot's seat. Management on Feb. 24 selected a $220 million bid from Bonderman's AmWest Partners to help the airline emerge from 2 1/2 years in Chapter 11.

Bonderman, a lawyer who at 50 is known for his loud socks and love of rock 'n' roll, represented Braniff in bankruptcy proceedings over a decade ago, then joined the Bass organization. Former colleague Richard Rainwater recalls Bonderman as a "spectacular deal-doer."

In December, a Bonderman partnership raised $400 million in a private placement handled by Merrill Lynch. Some of that money will be used for the America West bid, which would give Bonderman's group 70% voting control. The unsecured creditors' committee backs a competing $200 million bid by money manager Michael Steinhardt. But Richard P. Schifter, a lawyer representing Bonderman, believes his proposal will give creditors stock at least equal in value to their claims. And it offers the chance to forge potentially profitable ties with Continental Airlines, which Bonderman controls with Air Canada.EDITED BY KEITH H. HAMMONDS Wendy Zellner

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