MYSTIC, Conn. (January 4, 2011) – Sea Research Foundation, Inc. and its principal lender, Citibank NA, have signed a restructuring agreement that will immediately reduce the Foundation’s outstanding debt to Citibank to $19 million from approximately $34 million. In addition, the restructuring agreement includes an option that will allow for up to $5 million of incremental debt forgiveness, provided the Foundation is able to prepay up to $4 million of debt. This option will be available in declining amounts for up to six years. The agreement was finalized late last week.
Sea Research Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which operates Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration, Immersion Learning and The JASON Project.
“This agreement is a monumental achievement for all of the parties involved,” said Stephen M. Coan, Sea Research Foundation President and CEO. “It enables us to continue serving as an educational resource and economic engine for the State of Connecticut and beyond. There are many individuals and organizations who deserve credit for helping us reach this crucial milestone, but none more than the people of Citibank who understood and believed in our mission and worked tirelessly with us to find a way toward securing a sustainable financial future for our organization.”
According to Danielle Romero-Apsilos, spokesperson for Citi, “We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with Sea Research Foundation. Sea Research and its Mystic Aquarium facility are unique and vital resources for the communities of Southern New England. Citi fully supports the Foundation’s mission, and their dedication to protecting our oceans through education, research, and exploration. We hope that this agreement will allow Sea Research Foundation to continue its important work and serve as a catalyst for its future prosperity.”
Other leading participants and contributors to the agreement were the State of Connecticut and the Connecticut congressional delegation; United Technologies Corporation; and, Sea Research Board Chair George M. Milne who provided leadership and a major donation that sealed the agreement. Board Vice Chair Daniel C. Verdier headed the organization’s negotiating team.
Pro bono services were provided by Wachtell, Lipton Rosen and Katz and The Blackstone Group, both firms specializing in debt restructuring services.
The restructuring became necessary following a fall-off in revenue, which left the Foundation over levered. It represents the final piece of a three-year initiative to cut expenses, increase fund raising, and diversify revenue streams and leaves the Foundation on a solid and sustainable economic footing.
Sea Research will now move forward with a capital campaign in anticipation of the construction of a new Challenge of the Deep facility to be called the United Technologies Ocean Exploration Center, in honor of the lead corporate donor, United Technologies Corporation. A new research and education facility will be named the Milne Research and Education Center, in recognition of George M. Milne, PhD, Sea Research Foundation’s Chairman and lead donor.
Sea Research Foundation is the parent organization for Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration and Immersion Learning. In October, it assumed management of The JASON Project in collaboration with National Geographic Society. Mystic Aquarium is counted among the nation’s leading aquariums with more than 3,000 species and an extensive collection of marine mammals, including beluga whales, in its exhibits. The Aquarium has been a pioneer in offering guests a variety of up close encounters with a wide range of marine animals. Sea Research programs in Connecticut and across the country conducted through Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration, Immersion Learning and The JASON Project place Sea Research among New England’s largest informal learning organizations.