Niki collapses; Apollo Global Management buys Sun County Airlines; Airbus announces succession plan

Eleanor Steed
By Eleanor Steed December 15, 2017 18:03

Niki collapses; Apollo Global Management buys Sun County Airlines; Airbus announces succession plan

Austrian airline Niki has grounded its aircraft after failing to find a buyer following the collapse of parent Air Berlin. The company has filed for insolvency protection after Lufthansa decided not to purchase the airline possibly connected to the European Commission’s “deep competition concerns” that if Lufthansa purchase Niki aircraft it would limit choice for air travellers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.The airline has left around 5,000 passengers stranded abroad, mostly in Majorca. Austrian authorities have been working to get them transferred to other flights.

Meanwhile, in the USA, funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management have signed a definitive agreement to acquire Sun Country Airlines, the largest privately-held fully independent airline in the United States, from brothers Marty and Mitch Davis. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, is targeted to close during the first quarter of 2018. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sun Country, based in Minnesota, transports passengers to leisure destinations across the U.S. and internationally and specializes in flying from cold weather locales to warm weather destinations.

“We are tremendously excited about the acquisition of Sun Country,” said Antoine Munfakh, Partner at Apollo. “Sun Country presents compelling opportunities for innovation, efficiency and growth. Underpinned by a solid foundation of assets and people, including an outstanding team of executives and talented flight crews, we believe Sun Country has a very bright future. We look forward to supporting CEO Jude Bricker in delivering the next chapter of Sun Country’s growth through the combination of operational excellence and the relentless pursuit of delivering customer service and value.”

Jude Bricker, who will remain as CEO of Sun Country, said: “I’d like to thank Marty and Mitch for their strong support and stewardship of this very special airline. I look forward to working with Apollo to further enhance and grow Sun Country’s business.”

Sun Country Chairman Marty Davis said: “We are particularly pleased to sell Sun Country to Apollo because it has a proven track record for successfully helping companies grow and generate long-term value. With Jude at the helm, along with the dedicated employees who make Sun Country what it is today, we are confident the company is well-positioned for continued expansion and its evolution beyond its Minnesota base.”

Barclays served as financial adviser to Sun Country Airlines on this transaction.

Back in Europe, after some media speculation, Airbus has finally announced its succession plan for its top management. CEO Tom Enders will seek no further mandate beyond April 2019 and COO and President Commercial Aircraft, Fabrice Brégier, will step down in February 2018. Guillaume Faury, currently CEO Airbus Helicopters, to succeed Brégier as President Airbus Commercial Aircraft. Airbus says it will initate the search for a new CEO throughout 2018, with the goal of announcing a successor in good time for confirmation at the 2019 AGM.

The great John Leahy has also recently departed the European airframe manufacturer, leaving an entirely new team to guide the commercial aircraft department into its new phase of growth, which, the company hopes, will also include selling Bombardier’s C Series that is still out for approval by anti-trust regulators.

Eleanor Steed
By Eleanor Steed December 15, 2017 18:03