Gates-Controlled Optim Energy Seeks Sale of Texas Plant

Optim Energy LLC, the bankrupt power producer controlled by billionaire Bill Gates’s investment firm, sought court approval to sell a coal-fired Texas plant for about $60 million.

The company agreed to sell the 305-megawatt Twin Oaks plant to Major Oak Power LLC, an investment vehicle created by Blackstone Group LP for the proposed acquisition, according to court documents filed yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware.

Optim is indirectly owned by Cascade Investment LLC, an investment vehicle for Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and the world’s richest person, court papers show.

The Major Oak offer would set a floor for other potential buyers at a proposed Aug. 4 auction, according to court filings. A hearing would be held the next day to approve a sale to the winning bidder. To compete in the auction qualified bids would have to be submitted by July 23, under Optim’s sale procedures.

If Major Oak is beat at the auction it would get a $1.8 million breakup fee and $1 million to cover expenses, according to court papers.

Optim sought bankruptcy protection in February, after Cascade stopped funding the company’s losses, which piled up as electricity prices declined along with natural gas. Cascade is owed about $713 million for having paid off an Optim loan from Wells Fargo Bank NA.

Cascade provided Optim with about $115 million in bankruptcy financing to help fund operations while it restructures, according to court documents.

The power producer owns or partially owns two other plants, both running on natural gas, that combined can generate 1150-megawatts, court papers show.

The case is Optim Energy LLC, 14-bk-10262, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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