New Piper Poised For New Beginning
At a press conference in Manhattan, New Piper Aircraft Inc. President and CEO Chuck Shuma Friday announced that American Capital Strategies Ltd. (ACAS) has purchased the $137 million company's secured bank debt, representing a roughly $95 million investment. ACAS first invested in New Piper in 1998 and details to be hammered out this week may confirm that the recent investment will make them Piper's new majority shareholder. Re-capitalization will occur shortly and there may be other changes (watch this space). With the change in financial structure, New Piper, which has gone from 1300 to 700 employees as a result of the economic downturn, expects to bring "new products and innovations into the market" ... first in the form of upgraded avionics suites and improved ergonomics for their current designs. The company also is turning a fresh eye to Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers (Liberty Aerospace, Piper's neighbor, was mentioned by name) and may pursue partnerships of some kind if the aircraft can be produced for a price its market will bear. Shuma also told AVweb that reports of a recent $75 million to $100 million cash infusion at the company are not correct. Riding out uncertain economic conditions, the company expects to weather through at least 2004; New Piper has adjusted its production line and employment structure, under the philosophies of John Gallow, formerly of GE. According to Shuma, Gallow took one production line at GE from 15 days to 15 hours, relying on part-time help to level out the peaks and valleys of production. Shuma said this year his company will produce 232 aircraft.