Refco Inc., the futures broker reeling from a bad-debt scandal, said it signed a preliminary agreement to sell its futures units to a group led by buyout firm J.C. Flowers & Co. for $768 million.
Refco said it also filed for bankruptcy protection. Greenhill & Co., a New York-based investment bank led by Robert Greenhill, becomes Refco's sole financial adviser. Refco said Goldman Sachs Group Inc., hired on Oct. 13, wasn't under contract to work for the company after a bankruptcy filing.
New York-based Refco is moving forward with a sale to the Flowers-led group amid protests from would-be rivals. The investment arm of Dubai's government and Blackstone Group LP, one of the world's biggest buyout firms, are part of a consortium that may seek to trump the Flowers-led offer.
``Seeing that there is a bid that entertains the entire business concern, it should be seriously considered by the board and its advisers,'' said Raul Henriquez, 44, who runs an investment firm that has been a client of Refco's futures business for more than 20 years.
The futures business under discussion includes Refco's Refco LLC, Refco Overseas Ltd., Refco Singapore Ltd. units. It deals in exchange-traded futures and is regulated by the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Refco said its bankruptcy filing didn't include the regulated units such as Refco Securities LLC. It filed the so- called 8-K form today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Henriquez is the chief executive of Miami-based Hencorp, Becstone LC. Other clients are pressing Refco to consider the Dubai bid more seriously, people familiar with those discussions said. According to Carlos Abadi, a New York investment banker who says he's also involved in the Dubai bid, J.C. Flowers & Co. got preferential treatment because its founder, Christopher Flowers, 47, is a former Goldman partner.
``We don't have a strategic interest in J.C. Flowers or any of its funds,'' said Goldman spokesman Lucas van Praag. He declined to comment on Refco's plans. Refco spokesman Rob Solomon didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.
Flowers left New York-based Goldman, the world's third- largest securities firm by market value, in 1998. Enstar Group Inc., Silver Point Capital, MatlinPatterson Global Advisers LLC and Texas Pacific Group are part of the group led by Flowers.
Henriquez said considering a competing bid from the Dubai group ``would eliminate many potential conflicts of interest.'' Abadi, 45, said the consortium offered $1 billion for all of Refco and was rejected.
Refco's other main units are Refco Securities, a broker- dealer overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and Refco Capital Markets Ltd., an unregulated securities and foreign-exchange broker based in Bermuda.
Mark Winkelman will be chairman of Refco LLC. Winkelman was the head of J. Aron & Co., a commodities trading firm that Goldman bought in 1981. The business has since been folded into Goldman's fixed-income, currencies and commodities division.
Winkelman was co-head of the fixed-income business with Jon Corzine, until Corzine became Goldman's senior partner in 1994. Corzine is now Democratic U.S. Senator for New Jersey.
Last week, Refco said former Chief Executive Phillip R. Bennett covered up $430 million in bad debts. Customers abandoned the company as its credit ratings were cut, pushing it toward collapse.