A man who made millions of dollars when he sold a major league baseball team a decade ago may use some of his wealth in a leveraged buyout of troubled Apria Healthcare Group.
George Argyros, 61, entered due diligence last week with Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Apria after resigning as chairman of the home-care firm's board. Argyros will retain a seat on the board but has stepped down from a three-person committee exploring strategic options for the company.
A spokeswoman for Argyros, Ann Julsen, said he was reviewing Apria's financial materials in preparation for a buyout bid.
Argyros bought the Seattle Mariners for $11.7 million in 1981 and sold the team for $75 million in 1989 to an Indianapolis investor group. Argyros is principal owner of Costa Mesa-based Westar Capital, an investment group that would lead the buyout of Apria.
Neither Westar nor Apria would say whether a proposal would be made before Apria's May 27 board meeting.
Argyros is a major Apria shareholder, owning 5.4%, or 2.7 million, of the company's outstanding stock. His interest in Apria comes after New York investment firm Joseph Littlejohn & Levy aborted in March its recapitalization attempt because of a financial dispute (March 30, p. 24).
Ralph Whitworth, 42, succeeds Argyros as chairman. Whitworth is principal and manager of Relational Investors, Apria's largest shareholder, with 9.9%, or 5.1 million shares, of the company's stock.
Apria lost $6.6 million, or 13 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with net income of $19.2 million, or 37 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenues dropped 20% to $250.5 million. The firm provides home-care services to 350 locations in 50 states.
As of last week, Apria said it wasn't certain a concrete proposal would emerge from Argyros' due-diligence period. "There's no assurance that any proposal would be made," said Sheree Aronson, Apria's director of investor relations.