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SPAC Sponsors Profited Even As Investors Lost


The implosion of the special-purpose acquisition company boom left mostly a string of losing investments in its wake, but it turns out there were a few winners.

Those entities that collected healthy fees for overseeing the formation and execution of SPACs reaped the rewards of the trendy route to public listing.

The financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, for example, oversaw the merging of laser tech company AEye Inc. into a SPAC in the summer of 2021. Cantor invested less than $10M in the deal but made at least $35M in fees related to the listing and share sales, the Wall Street Journal reports.

SPACs, including AEye, go public at $10 per share. As of Monday, AEye is trading for a little more than 91 cents per share.

“There is no question that the sponsors had great returns at the same time that public market investors had very negative returns,” Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, told the WSJ.

Private investors put hundreds of billions of dollars into SPACs during their brief heyday in 2020 and 2021, many of which targeted proptech or other real estate-adjacent companies for acquisition.

During the rush to form the investment vehicles, companies such as Latch, Opendoor Technologies and WeWork were all acquired — and they are all now valued well below $10 per share. 

“To be clear, no great companies went public via SPAC,” Shadow Ventures founder KP Reddy told Bisnow in March. "At the very beginning, maybe a few because it was fast, but certainly not now."

SPACs are structured such that they have two years to make an investment. Some dissolved without doing so, such as Equity Distribution Acquisition Corp., a SPAC formed by real estate billionaire Sam Zell in 2020. 

In that case, investors get their investments back, avoiding a big loss on a stock that tanks after it goes public at $10 a share. Still, such investors don't have a return to show for their two-year investment.

Related Topics: SPACs, blank check companies