* Simmons exits bankruptcy protection
* Under ownership of group that also owns rival Serta
By Emily Chasan
NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Simmons Bedding Co [SIMMB.UL] has exited bankruptcy protection under the ownership of an investor group that owns rival Serta, about three months after seeking court protection.
The Atlanta-based maker of Beautyrest mattresses, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November as consumers pulled back on big-ticket purchases, said late on Wednesday that its $760 million deal to be bought by affiliates of Ares Management LLC and Teachers’ Private Capital had closed.
Under a prepackaged bankruptcy deal, the company cut its debt obligations to about $450 million from $1 billion. The company took on debt after a 2003 buyout by private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners LP [THL.UL].
Ares & Teachers’ said they will own Simmons and control Serta through a company called National Bedding Co, but Serta and Simmons will operate separately.
“Simmons is a resilient company that, in fact, performed well in 2009 despite having to navigate both a tough economy and its restructuring process,” said Erol Uzumeri, senior vice president at Teachers’ Private Capital, the private investment department of Teachers’.
Serta and Simmons have a combined market share greater than the world leader in the mattress market, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co-controlled [KKR.UL] Sealy Corp ZZ.N, according to market research firm IBISWorld Inc, in November.
The case is In re: Simmons Bedding Co, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 09-14036. (Reporting by Emily Chasan. Editing by Robert MacMillan)