Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP announced on Dec. 18 that it is selling its interests in Freedom Group Inc., which owns Bushmaster Firearms International, maker of the AR 15 rifle, one of the guns allegedly used in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
“We were shocked and deeply saddened by the events that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School,” says Cerberus in a statement, which explains that affiliates of the New York investment firm made a 2006 financial investment in Freedom Group, which, it says sells weapons only to federally licensed firearms dealers and distributors.
“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” says the statement. “The debate essentially focuses on the balance between public safety and the scope of the Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment. As a firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policy makers. Our role is to make investments on behalf of our clients who are comprised of the pension plans of firemen, teachers, policemen and other municipal workers and unions, endowments, and other institutions and individuals. It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. That is the job of our federal and state legislators. There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take. Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group."
Cerberus will retail financial adviser to sell its interests and then return capital to its investors.
The announcement comes one day after a spokesperson for the California State Teachers’ Retirement Systems (CalSTRS) told reporters on Dec. 17 that the pension fund, one of the firm’s biggest investors, was “examining the Cerberus investment to determine how best to move forward given the tragic events of last Friday.” Also on Dec. 17, California treasurer Bill Lockyer (pictures) told reporters that he believes neither CalSTRS or the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) “should have any investments in the makers of guns that are illegal in California, especially when those guns have been used to kill 20 innocent children and six innocent adults.”
Perhaps also of relevance, Martin Feinberg, the 86-year-old father of Cerberus co-founder and chief executive Stephen Feinberg, is a resident of Newtown.
With $20 billion under management, Cerberus is best known for buying car maker Chrysler and General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC), the finance division of General Motors (NYSE: GM), before the financial crisis. Cerberus invests mainly in distressed securities and assets, control and non-control private equity, commercial mid-market lending and real estate investments.
Freedom Group makes Remington, Bushmaster Firearms, DPMS/Panther Arms, Marlin, H&R, the Parker Gun, Mountain Khakis, Advanced Armament Corp, Dakota Arms, Para USA and Barnes Bullets brand products.