Eclipse Sale To Close Today

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Barring any last-minute changes, the assets of Eclipse Aviation will be sold on Thursday, Aug. 20, to Eclipse Aerospace, a new company founded by two Eclipse E500 owners. Eclipse Aerospace put in a bid of $40 million with a federal bankruptcy court earlier this month, and since no other qualified bidders had surfaced by a court deadline, Eclipse Aerospace seems likely to close the deal. Mike Press and Mason Holland, owners of the company, have said they will keep Eclipse in Albuquerque, provide service and upgrades for the current fleet, and eventually restart production. Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez told the New Mexico Business Weekly he expects the new company to start hiring workers soon, but it will create only a few hundred jobs, not the 2,000 or so that Eclipse Aviation provided at its peak. "Eclipse has always been more important to us than the jobs it provides," Chavez said. "It represents a symbol of progress for the city. That it's now coming back is a huge victory for Albuquerque."

Holland, chairman and co-founder of Benefitfocus, a software firm based in South Carolina, told the Post and Courier this week that his group's bid faces some objections, but none is expected to derail the deal. "We're going to stand the company back up and continue to service the existing fleet and reintroduce the production of the aircraft ... as the market allows," he said. Holland had placed a deposit on an E500 jet, but never took delivery. He said he expects it will be about a year before the company restarts production. He added that when the economy begins to recover, demand for the $2-million E500 will revive. "There's no price point lower than this jet," he said. The original company erred by putting more emphasis on growth plans than on the bottom line, according to Holland. "We're going to be focused on profitability first and growth second. You don't go broke when you're focused on that," he told the Post and Courier. About 260 E500 jets have been delivered to owners, but few are flying due to issues with parts and supplies. In June, EASA suspended its European certification of the E500.