Special Situations Groups

Can somebody explain on a high level what special situations groups do? Who are the big players in the space?

Any helpful links to learning more would be great as well

Comments (69)

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Event

Oaktree is distressed, Cerberus is more PE/Distressed PE. Tac Opps is different.

theranos, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How so?

Cerberus has a HF, Turnaround, and Distressed product.

  • Prospect in Research - Other


Most Helpful
  • Associate 2 in PE - Other

Happy to share my thoughts as an investor in the special situations space at a prominent fund investing across asset classes. Would describe the disposition towards characterizing special situations as distressed investing as incorrect. Special situations typically involves event driven situations which can sometimes mean deep value distressed, but would think of it more as opportunistic. Special situations spans growth capital in venture / growth equity like businesses, deep value distressed, opportunistic event driven financing (merger, major catalyst that drives valuation, etc.),  NPL purchases, complex secondaries investments both on single asset and pools of assets, NAV lending, portfolio purchases, IP/royalties investing, structured capital, litigation finance, opportunistic asset purchases, etc.

Simply put, special situations denotes a highly flexible mandate in which investment professionals are evaluating transactions that span various asset classes and structures, typically relating to esoteric investments in bespoke structures. Another aspect of special situations many don't understand is special sits includes buyouts, as opportunistic asset purchases are a component of any special sits strategy. The key distinction is that special sits investors are value investors vs. your typical PE firm and won't be buying a business for 12x, but rather would buy the debt at $0.60, foreclose on the asset, and create a business at 4x.

theranos, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Awesome! So helpful. Who would you say are the best in the special sits space? And why do Oaktrees returns always suck?

Tamara_S, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Here is what comes to mind:

Morgan Stanley Tactical Value

Goldman Sachs - West Street Strategic Solutions 

Ares Special Opportunities

Blackstone Tactical Opportunities

Apollo Hybrid Value

KKR Dislocation Opportunities Fund

Carlyle Strategic Partners

Carlyle Tactical Private Credit Fund

I would personally think of Cerberus and Oaktree as primarily distressed mandates, with occasional special sits deals making it into their portfolios. 

  • 5
  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other

Don't forget PIMCO's alt credit/special sits team which has over $100B in AUM. They've been utilizing their fixed-income powerhouse platform to fuel their alts division during these times of low yield.

  • Intern in AM - Equities

How familiar are you with the group? You know what comp looks like at associate level?

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen

Disregard my title but I work for a special situations investment fund (multi bn funds) that plays in 95% of cases away from distressed (situations where we looked at distressed was 1) to fix a broken balance sheet or 2) to buy a business out of bankruptcy). Broken balance sheet, misunderstood businesses, complex carve outs, businesses with lack of trackrecord, complex M&A financing are our core investment themes. We have locked up funds/evergreen funds to deploy patient capital across the capital structure. We aim at doing teens returns across the cycle and we broadly have 1) more guaranteed returns - so less exit/valuation/beta risk, 2) better downside protection vs. a secondaries or a PE fund by often not being a common equity holder. That is a very attractive offering for allocators when they think about managing their portfolios. 


So you work at a fund that focuses on identifying distressed companies that really do have value and just needed the capital infusion/restructuring and/or a turnaround of the target? And then when you say "less exit/valuation/beta risk", you're exit multiple is nothing special, but it's the discount you bought the company for and the turnaround of the company's operations to make it healthy again that yields the most value upon exit? 

Ya, that's a distressed investing fund. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen

No core of what we do is away from that and in the performing space. large part of what we do is Growth Capital (roll-outs), Complex M&A financing Sr Debt, Junior or Pref (carve outs, minnow whale M&A), financing royalties or misunderstood streams of cashflows (i.e. music as per the conversation above). Maybe 5-10% of our portfolios comes from underperforming businesses that we refinanced that you want to bucket into Distressed. 

in all of these cases you can be in an attractive place in the capital structure but not the one taking the equity risk (even if say equity was worthless than the Unsecured guys would hold equity like risk) where we don't care what valuation/multiple is for our return. 

PommesQT, what's your opinion? Comment below:


Late comment but when you say "broken balance sheet" do you mean suboptimal capitalization structure / liquidity issues etc / overleveraged and you're going to buy the debt pieces to take over it

Or more like hairy problems that normal GPs don't want to wade it and fix

Aware that both scenarios can be true at the same time

  • 1

As someone who works in both Special Situations M&A and Distressed Debt Principal Investing (within a hybrid role at a boutique), I will also reiterate some of the comments above that these two terms are not synonymous. Let's also not confuse big name shops like Oaktree Capital to be a "distressed investing fund". While they do have separate funds dedicated to covering distressed investing opportunities, they have many other funds focused on entirely different strategies. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other

There are a handful of funds that have as flexible and expansive as a mandate that enable them to invest across asset classes, capital structure, and inherent risk profile. These funds typically target mid to high teens returns, oftentimes synonymous with traditional private equity returns if high teens and above.

Sixth Street







BX Tac Opps

Monroe Opportunistic

Golub Capital Credit Opps

Origami Capital

MHR Fund Management


Beach Point

Angelo Gordon

Victory Park

Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Special situations is a catch all. It initially was a fancy way to say distressed, but can mean anything and have a broad mandate.

You need to diligence whatever group you're interviewing at to understand what exactly they do.

theranos, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Versus traditional private equity where you may take a minority or majority stake in a company and take an active operational/strategic role - how passive is SS in comparison and how would this compare to 'turnaround' kind of like Sun Capital?

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs


  • 1
  • Business School in ER

Would you consider Fortress as a special sits shop? Their credit vehicles seem to do a lot of different things including rescue financing, loan to own, etc.

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A

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