Cerberus Capital Management denied news stories today that it sold any of its equity stake in either Chrysler or GMAC Financial Services.
But other than denying it, the privately held Cerberus was masterfully vague about what exactly may have led to a Financial Times story that said Cerberus supposedly had "sold 'significantly' more than half its equity to about 90 investors."
A group of investors led by New York-based Cerberus paid $7.2 billion for 80.1 percent of the Chrysler Group in August 2007. In November 2006, Cerberus also led a group that bought 51 percent of GM's captive finance company, then called General Motors Acceptance Corp., for $14 billion, to be paid over three years.
Both investments have since run into trouble, including falling sales at Chrysler and big losses for GMAC, which was heavily invested in subprime mortgages.
In a statement in response to the Financial Times story and to other news outlets that picked it up, Cerberus COO Mark Neporent said, "Cerberus has not reduced or made any changes to its equity stakes in GMAC or Chrysler since the closing of either transaction." He said that Cerberus retains "voting control" over both companies.
He goes on to say, "It is common knowledge, and has been widely reported, that Cerberus made these investments side-by-side with its co-investors at the time of closing. As a general rule, Cerberus does not commit more than 5 percent of the capital of any of its funds to any single investment."
That could mean a lot of things, but it doesn't deny that equity in GMAC and/or Chrysler may have changed hands, even if Cerberus didn't reduce its stake. Maybe the roster of other "co-investors" changed? That's information that a publicly traded company might have to disclose.
Between the lines, the statement also seems to say, "We really didn't have that much of our own money invested anyway." That probably isn't too reassuring to Chrysler, to GMAC or to the "co-investors."
It may be a while before the next shoe drops, but you can't help but feel there's more to come on this topic.