* $22.5 bln initial distribution to begin April 17
* Figure is higher than initial payout estimates
* Lehman exited bankruptcy in March with $65 bln payout plan
* Eyes second distribution later in 2012
By Nick Brown
April 11 (Reuters) - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc next week will begin paying out $22.5 billion to its creditors, more than it initially estimated in the first leg of its $65 billion creditor payback plan.
Lehman, which ended the largest-ever Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, will begin making payments April 17, it said in a statement on Wednesday. That date coincides with a tentative payout schedule announced last month. The company said in the statement it is eyeing a second distribution around Sept. 30.
The $22.5 billion first distribution announced on Wednesday, much higher than Lehman's initial minimum estimate made last month of about $10 billion, is relief for creditors who have been waiting three-and-a-half years for their money as Lehman has trudged through a messy liquidation. The firm's collapse in September 2008 was a catalyst of the global financial crisis.
The company fought for control of its bankruptcy as multiple creditor factions, including derivatives creditors like Goldman Sachs Group Inc and bondholders led by Paulson & Co, sought to impose competing payout plans that favored their constituents.
Lehman in June proposed a plan it touted as a "global compromise," estimating about $65 billion in total payback and giving many creditors recoveries of between 20 and 30 cents on the dollar.
That plan was approved by a bankruptcy judge in December, and Lehman officially exited Chapter 11 protection last month.
Creditors of Lehman's parent will receive about $10.2 billion under the initial distribution. Those creditors are ultimately projected to recover about 21 cents on the dollar.
Derivatives creditors, ultimately slated to recover about 28 cents on the dollar, will get about $6.9 billion under the first distribution.
Lehman's payback plan projects recoveries of $65 billion for creditors that have asserted more than $300 billion of claims. The estimates, however, depend on Lehman's success in ongoing efforts to market and monetize its real estate and other assets, which in turn could be affected by changes in markets.
A spokeswoman for Lehman declined to comment on whether the company's recovery estimate could change.
Spokesmen for Paulson and Goldman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The bankruptcy is In re Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-13555.