Monday 23 October 2017

Jetbird founder spreads wings in new venture

John Mulligan and Joe Brennan

Financier Domhnal Slattery, who is trying to renegotiate an aircraft-purchase agreement for his troubled Jetbird air-taxi venture, is looking to set up a major new aviation venture

It emerged last night that Mr Slattery has set up a commercial aircraft leasing company known as Avolon, with the support of a $250m (€172m) investment from US private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners.

Mr Slattery has retained UBS, the Swiss investment bank, to raise $790m (€545m) in debt funding to get the company off the ground. The bank mentions that the Avolon team is "not burdened by legacy issues".

The business strategy circulated by UBS highlights Mr Slattery's background in aircraft leasing, which includes a stint at the late Tony Ryan's Guinness Peat Aviation, and the sale of Mr Slattery's International Aviation Management vehicle to Royal Bank of Scotland in 2001 for around €45m.

He went on to form Claret Capital, in which Senator Feargal Quinn's family have a stake.

The UBS presentation makes no reference, however, to Jetbird, the private aircraft leasing venture Mr Slattery established in 2006 to great fanfare.

Jetbird was billed as a lower-cost alternative to other air-taxi services such as Netjets, the private-jet service owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group.

Last November, Jetbird announced that it was placing all of its almost 40 staff on protective notice as it continued to seek about €6m in additional funding that would enable it to begin taking delivery of aircraft from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

Avolon is looking to buy 120 aircraft. It has 15 executives, who have strong relationships with 150 airlines, said UBS.

Mr Slattery couldn't be contacted for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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