Jack Ackerman, Drexel Veteran Who Led Creditors, Dies at 83

Jack R. Ackerman, a former Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. managing director who founded BondReview Inc. to help creditors protect their interests when companies restructured, has died. He was 83.

He died on May 27 at his home in Manhattan, according to his son, Jay Ackerman. The cause was Parkinson’s disease.

Ackerman spent 25 years as an investment banker at New York-based Bache & Co. before joining Drexel in 1980 to help run its corporate finance department. In 1988, he co-founded BondReview, a company aimed at guarding the rights of debt holders, with offices in New York and Beverly Hills, California.

As the firm’s president, Ackerman represented investors in Univision Holdings bonds in a debt restructuring. The unit of Kansas City, Missouri-based Hallmark Corp. was advised by Wilbur Ross, then a banker at Rothschild Inc.

“He was a very tough negotiator, but very straight, very well prepared, and a pleasure to do business with even though we were adversarial,” Ross, now a billionaire investor, said yesterday in a telephone message. “He represented a lot of the good spirits of how things used to happen on Wall Street when relationships really mattered and perhaps don’t happen as often now. I miss him. I think a lot of people do.”

Advising Creditors

Ackerman described BondReview as “an advisory firm providing a specialized service for investors in high-yield bonds,” according to a 1988 article in the Bond Buyer. He said his company was “a little bit like a union for bondholders,” which attempted to get creditors to reach a consensus on what actions to take when faced with corporate restructurings.

The firm’s slogan was borrowed from Benjamin Franklin: “We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

In 1989, BondReview represented a group of GAF Corp. bondholders who were concerned when the company announced it would redeem bonds before they matured as part of a management-led buyout. Banding together, creditors pressured the Wayne, New Jersey-based company, a maker of specialty chemicals and building materials, to increase its payout by about $20 million, Ackerman said, according to an Associated Press story.

Better Offer

The following year, Hallmark sought to pay holders of bonds issued by its Univision unit at less than 50 cents on the dollar. Ackerman, through his negotiations with investment banker Ross, persuaded Hallmark to raise its offer by 25 percent, according to a Forbes account at the time.

BondReview worked on similar deals with holders of debt issued by Resorts International Inc., Ames Department Stores Inc., and Southland Corp., then the parent of 7-Eleven stores.

Jack Rossin Ackerman was born on Feb. 8, 1931, in New York City, to Robert Ackerman, who worked in the cotton waste industry, and the former Florence Rossin, a granddaughter of mining tycoon, banker and philanthropist Adolph Lewisohn. Her father, Alfred Rossin, was president of the Public National Bank and Trust Co. in New York.

Jack Ackerman attended the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1953. He received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1955, the year he joined Bache. By 1974, he rose to senior vice president of both Bache and its underwriting affiliate, Halsey, Stuart & Co., according to a New York Times article.

Drexel Deal

While at Drexel, his investment banking clients included Lorimar Inc., the Hollywood production company led by its chairman, Merv Adelson, which produced hit TV shows such as “The Waltons,” “Knots Landing” and “Dallas,” according to a 1985 article in the Los Angeles Times. Lorimar merged with Telepictures Corp. in 1986 to form Lorimar-Telepictures Corp. in a deal valued at about $300 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ackerman retired from BondReview in 1991, according to Marquis Who’s Who.

He volunteered with the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Service, a New York City-based social services organization, until he was slowed in recent years by Parkinson’s.

In 1953 he married the former Frani Cooper. They divorced in 1971. She and three of their four children survive him: daughters Ellen Miller and Robin Foley, and son Jay Ackerman. A son, Bradley Ackerman, died in 2009. His survivors also include his second wife, Dana Lowenthal, whom he married in 1974.

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