Sunday, August 2, 2009
Light At The End Of The Tunnel (?)
The figurative Duke of Albuquerque, Mayor Marty Chavez, announced on Friday, July 31, that he was "98 percent certain that Eclipse has been saved.". Perhaps he meant, 98% certain 2% of it had been saved, as the rumored offer is $40M, for what had been a $2B investment...).
A group of investors formed Eclipse Aerospace (I believe, formerly calling themselves Eclipse Jet, when Roel Pieper was associated with them mid-year- Mr. Peiper has since moved back to Europe to carry on his pen-pal relationship with Al Mann, and perhaps avoid a different pen-pal relationship with other former Eclipse managment).
The new cast of characters:
Mason R. Holland Jr., Benefitfocus of Charleston, S.C., (Holland held a position on s/n 473-or so, and had made the 60% progress payment).
Mike Press, president and CEO of Single-Pilot Jet Management in Chesterfield, Mo.,
Raul Segredo, president and CEO of Miami-based Avionica, a provider of aircraft data communications products and services, and
John Cracken, a managing director of Cracken, Harkey & Co., a Dallas-based private equity firm.
Mason and Mike were kind enough to copy Shane on an email explaining their intentions in April- things might have changed a little, being as that was a few months ago, but I suspect the basic intent is the same. Shane kindly posted their information on April 26, 2009.
I'm not sure Raul is still with the group- his avionics experience would definitely be a strong plus for the group.
KRQE in Albuquerque has a recent "extended interview" (well, it's a 3 minute telephone call) with Mason Holland.
Time line for the court events ahead:
August 10 hearing (I believe to discuss the current offer).
August 24 hearing (Going once, going twice, ...)
There is rumor of another bid or two, possibly forthcoming- but Mayor Chavez seems to feel this one is likely to be the winner. And if anyone knows how to pick a winner... (Just Kidding!)
Not to be un-"enthusiast"-ic, I do feel an obligation to caution a certain degree of "critic"-al evaluation, particularly for those in Albuquerque, who might be expecting too much, too soon, from the new ownership. While the mayor refers to some part of a former employment level of 800 (odd, it's not 2000), and Eclipse Aerospace mentions 100-200 intially, I feel perhaps we should be discussing dozens rather than hundreds, at least for the first few months. I hope things accelerate quickly, but still, it's a tough market.
Well, that pretty much assuages my urge to issue a cautionary note. These are the things a critic frets about. But as an enthusiast, I'm happy the offices and factory and hangar doors will be unlocked. Long time blog participant Ken Meyers, an EA500 owner himself, feels this is a well-prepared group, who seem to have been doing their homework. The announced long term intention of reopening the production line and building 100-200 airplanes per year seems quite reasonable once the economy improves, and until then, everyone will welcome the near-term effort to bring updates and improvements to the existing fleet, and offer parts and training for pilots and maintenance personnel.
Good luck, Eclipse Aerospace.
(It will be interesting to see what's "just around the bend"!)