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The winning Kellogg team, from left: Jennifer Trawinski, Kathy Lai, Daniel Aronson (all ‘10) and Christopher Fletcher ‘09

Students pose for a picture after winning the ABI Case competition

Hard to beat

Kellogg team wins again in annual ABI Corporate Restructuring Competition

By Shannon Sweetnam

11/12/2008 - The Kellogg School team took first place in the Fifth Annual ABI Corporate Restructuring Competition held Nov. 6-7 at Wieboldt Hall on the Kellogg School's Chicago campus, beating teams from 10 other leading business schools around the country. Teams had only a week to prepare for the competition, which included submitting a written analyses and conclusion in addition to preparing three presentations for the three panels of judges. The students were taked with offering advice on liquidity, capital structure, debt capacity and valuation.

The Kellogg team included Class of 2009 and 2010 students Jennifer Trawinski, Kathy Lai, Christopher Fletcher and Daniel Aronson. The students pooled their knowledge of turnaround management, operational and financial restructuring methods and bankruptcy law to develop the winning presentation in a challenge posed by the fictional company AmGyp, a construction materials manufacturer that had financial, manufacturing, intellectual property, distribution, litigation and union problems.

“Our team this year was amazing. The competition’s case was extremely tough,” said Tim Thompson, Kellogg senior lecturer in finance. “The case was a very real-world exercise. The judges are all turnaround and restructuring professionals who are not only assessing your understanding of the concepts but are also playing roles in the case. When the team is presenting to the ‘board of directors’ of the case company, there are managers on the panel who may be looking to lose their jobs, there are equity holders who may be looking to lose their investment. Understanding not only your recommendation, but how you get it across to parties that may be very contentious is part of the challenge. Our team did an excellent job.”

The competition, which was co-sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute and Houlihan Lokey Investment Banking Services, has been held at the Kellogg School for the past five years and serves to provide students with the opportunity to solve a realistic business case of a hypothetical distressed company while undergoing intensive scrutiny. The competition also provides a networking opportunity for students. A Kellogg team also took first place in the 2007 competition.

“The people involved in this year’s case thought it was the most difficult and complex case ever given in any competiton, including the professionals at Houlihan Lokey who wrote the case as well as the judges from the competition, who came from investment banking firms, consulting firms and various other financial institutions,” said Jim Shein, Kellogg clinical professor of management and strategy. “Our students rose to the challenge. They were terrific this year.”

In addition to the cash prize, the Kellogg team earned the right to have the school’s name engraved on the Bettina M. Whyte trophy, named after the Kellogg School graduate of the Class of 1975 who helped initiate the competition. The team captured the trophy by winning first place in written deliverables as well as the presentations and in defending their answers, a feat considering the difficulty of the case and the fact that none of the four team members knew each other before the competition.

“It was a great team-building and learning experience,” said Jennifer Trawinski ’10. “I am so grateful for the opportunity that we had as a team to grapple through the issues of the case.”

Fellow team member Chris Fletcher ’09 said the experience will be one of those he looks back on most fondly. ""Not only did the experience teach me a great deal about restructuring, but I also learned a lot about how quickly a team can come together and make things happen.”

The competition’s sponsor, American Bankruptcy Institute, is a multidisciplinary, nonpartisan organization founded in 1982 to provide unbiased analysis of issues related to bankruptcy.