Cessna Aircraft Co. placed the winning bid for the assets of Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. Cessna’s bid of $26.4 million edged out New York-based Park Electrochemical Corp.
Columbia, a Bend, Ore.-based company that manufactures high-performance single engine composite aircraft, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland, Ore., Sept. 24. Shortly after the filing, the company announced plans to sell its assets to Cessna, but also stated that an auction would be held if there were other bidders.
Several other bidders were interested, but all except high-tech company Park Electrochemical and Cessna withdrew before the Nov. 27 auction was held.
According to court documents, Cessna initially offered approximately $24.5 million for the company, including $16 million in cash and the assumption of $8.5 million in unsecured liabilities.
Cessna is the world’s largest general aviation manufacturer in terms of annual unit sales, producing single-engine piston aircraft, turboprops and business jets. Columbia has produced more than 600 aircraft in its 10-year history.
“The Columbia models are a good fit with our existing product line,” said Jack Pelton, Cessna’s chairman, president and CEO. “We look forward to providing existing Columbia owners with improved levels of service and support and introducing new customers to these outstanding aircraft.”
Cessna plans to make “significant investments in Bend, in people and operations,” according to Pelton.
Cessna’s expectation is that the transaction will be finalized by Dec. 4. Once that is done, the Columbia operation will take on the Cessna name and become one of six Cessna manufacturing facilities.
Cessna intends to rename the Columbia products as the Cessna 350 and the Cessna 400.
According to Cessna officials, the company and its network of authorized dealers and service centers will integrate sales and support of the former Columbia aircraft, while Cessna Parts Distribution is expected to become the source for parts for the Columbia designs.
Cessna officials first expressed interest in acquiring Columbia as far back as April 2007, Pelton told General Aviation News at AOPA Expo in October. In the weeks that followed Columbia’s bankruptcy announcement several other interested parties stepped forward, including Park Electrochemical, Granger Whitelaw & Associates, Versa Capital Management Inc., and Cirrus Design Corp.
Granger Whitelaw & Associates, Versa Capital Management and Cirrus withdrew before the bidding began. The Cirrus departure took place about a week before the Nov. 27 auction. Cirrus officials stated that the cost of bringing the Columbia airframes to Cirrus standards would be prohibitive. The powers that be at Cirrus felt those resources should be applied to development of “the jet” instead.
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