The Expectations Grow...
The GA industry has
been agog, the last few days, at the news that Cessna's parent
company, Textron, is reportedly bidding to purchase (at least) part
of Columbia Aircraft. ANN broke the news several days ago
on the sale of Columbia Aircraft actively being pursued... and
that three parties were identified as having interest in taking
over all or part of Columbia Aircraft.
As we noted previously, each of the competitors has intriguing
plans for their bids. At least one is reportedly interested more in
the intellectual property and assets alone while one other bidder
expressed an interest in operating the intact company and expanding
its operations, presumably where it now operates in Bend, OR.
Depending on the ultimate resolution to this matter, the
Central Oregon employment picture stands poised to get a shot in
the arm... or take a big hit, if the company is disassembled or
At that time, ANN confirmed the identity of Textron, the parent
organization overseeing the mighty GA manufacturer Cessna, as one
of the interested parties. Back then, we explained the biggest news
in the story at the time was the report that industry titan Cessna
Aircraft was a part of the bidding process.
Textron/Cessna's plans for Columbia remained then unconfirmed
(and still are -- the rumors are reaching a fever pitch) and
company spokespersons have refused to "comment on speculation... as
a matter of company policy." Industry insiders opined the
Textron/Cessna involvement might be the most interesting aspect of
the current scenario. One aero-insider noted (on background) that,
"...it would seem unlikely that Textron would keep Columbia in
Oregon, and if Cessna is the focal point of this action, then their
labor agreements may even force them to bring everything back to
Still, the biggest question is whether Textron would be
interested in Columbia as a stand-alone company, as a part of
Cessna itself, or as an asset acquisition that may (ultimately)
result in the cessation of production in its current form.
Regardless, the Textron/Cessna interest in this company has the
potential to change the industry, dramatically."
OK.. that was then. We now know a LOT more about another major
bidder in this process and their potential plans for the speedy
aircraft builder. A team of potential purchasers, led by Aerospace
Entrepreneur Granger Whitelaw (best known as the CEO of the Rocket
Racing League), is in aggressive negotiation to acquire the entire
Columbia company and associated assets.
When contacted, Whitelaw confirmed that he was involved in the
aforementioned negotiations and that his plans were to "save
Columbia from bankruptcy, operate the company where it stands in
Bend (OR)... with the current workforce intact, and make this
company the best in general aviation. I have a signed offer letter
and funding in place to carry the company operations over for the
next 45 days while we finish the structure to acquire the entire
entity." Whitelaw has indicated that a number of his associates in
his aerospace ventures are part of the team and that they have
offered to guarantee transition funding over the process of the
sale and want to execute an agreement "as soon as is possible."
Granger Whitelaw (pictured below) serves as President and Chief
Executive Officer of the Rocket Racing League (Disclosure
Note: ANN CEO/E-I-C Jim Campbell was named as one of
four founding pilots in the RRL in 2004. He has NO financial
interest in the Columbia project, however), overseeing
the league's management, operations, partnerships and corporate
Whitelaw is the Founding Partner and Managing Director of
BlueCar Partners, LLC, a global venture-consulting firm that
provides capital, strategic consulting and business development
services to promote the growth and success of innovative companies.
Over the past 15 years, Mr. Whitelaw has led the firm in the launch
and expansion of more than 20 companies, including the AMBER
Development Group which supports the next-generation of the Amber
Alert system, International Fuel Technology, a fuel science and
research company, GPS Industries, creator of GPS-related sporting
equipment, Kalorama Studios, a major motion picture and event site
in Washington, D.C., TrendSphere, a think tank and consultancy for
Fortune 500 Chief Technology Officers, and Vemics, creator of
breakthrough collaboration technologies. Previously, Mr. Whitelaw
served as Vice President of Mergers & Acquisitions at Grady
Whitelaw studied International Trade & Marketing at the
University of Minnesota.
ANN STILL awaits word from a number of parties close to this
story as to the final decisions of the Columbia Board... decisions
which have been expected on a daily basis for the bhetter partr of
a week. One Columbia insider, though, STILL predicts "an answer by
NBAA (ANN Note: next week's Convention in Atlanta, GA), probably,
but certainly by AOPA (ANN Note: the AOPA Expo this October
ANN will keep you updated as developments occur.