Florida Investment Firm Finalizes Deal to Acquire Columbia Helicopters

The sale of Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters has officially been completed to AE Industrial Partners, a private investment firm headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., which specializes in aerospace, defense services, power generation and specialty industrial markets.

Terms of the deal, which was first announced on July 18, were not disclosed.

It was actually the second time in the past year that a larger investor had attempted to add the privately owned company based at Aurora State Airport to its holdings. A Houston, Texas-based investment group announced its intentions to purchase Columbia for $560 million last November, but the deal unraveled several months later.

The Bristow Group’s attempt to acquire Columbia was “horribly botched,” according to a shareholder, and the corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.

This deal went much more smoothly. And more quietly. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal adviser, Rothschild & Co. served as financing adviser, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP served as financial adviser to AEI. Tonkon Torp LLP served as legal adviser and Greenhill & Co. served as financial adviser to Columbia.

According to AEI’s earlier release, Columbia CEO Steve Bandy was to remain in his role, while majority owner Nancy Lematta would “retain a significant ownership position in the company.”

Columbia was founded by the late Wes Lematta in 1957 and is now a global leader in heavy-lift helicopter operations and manufacture, maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Its home airfield at the Aurora airport is named after Lematta.

Columbia owns, operates and maintains a fleet of Columbia Model 107-II Vertol, Columbia Model 234 Chinook, and Columbia Model CH-47D Chinook helicopters. These aircraft are operated around the world, providing passenger and cargo services to customers across various end-markets.

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