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Modern Aviation Launches Business With Air Wilmington Acquisition

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 23, 2018
New York-based Modern Aviation, a fixed-base operator (FBO) platform backed by Tiger Infrastructure Partners, has acquired Air Wilmington for an undisclosed amount of money.

The Air Wilmington acquisition is the first for the company, which plans to pursue additional FBO acquisitions and development opportunities in North America and the Caribbean, according to a news release. 

Air Wilmington provides fueling, hangar storage and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services to general aviation, military and commercial airlines. Air Wilmington's facilities include an 8,400-square-foot FBO terminal and more than 100,000 square feet of hangar space, according to the release.

The closing of the acquisition for Air Wilmington, the only FBO located on the grounds of Wilmington International Airport (ILM) under a long-term concession, took place Thursday, said Mark Carmen, CEO and co-founder of Modern Aviation. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, he said Friday.

Officials with ILM and the New Hanover County Airport Authority, indicated earlier this week that a sale of Air Wilmington was pending. Air Wilmington was acquired from Bill Cherry, whose family had owned the FBO for more than 40 years. Cherry did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

"Bill Cherry and his team have built a first-class operation in Wilmington for the last 40 years," Carmen said in the release.

In addition to Cherry's interest to sell the FBO, Carmen said Friday that the company chose the FBO because "we really like Wilmington. It's a vibrant community. It's growing. And the FBO, in particular, has a great reputation in the industry for providing excellent customer service, for quality and for safety. And those [are] the three main criteria that we look at when evaluating an FBO.

"Air Wilmington has done a great job in the community. The airport authority and staff have done a great job building the infrastructure at the airport along with Air Wilmington. And they're attracting more commercial flights. And Air Wilmington is attracting more general aviation flights. So it's an attractive location," he added.

The new general manager of Air Wilmington is Tony Wright, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business locally, Carmen said. Wright will be relocating to the Wilmington area over the next few days for the position.

Wright comes from the industry, said Carmen, who picked Wright for the position at Air Wilmington. He has been the general manager of several FBOs for large companies such as Signature Flight Support and Atlantic Aviation.

Cherry will remain with the company at this time during the transition, Carmen said. The name Air Wilmington and its employees will remain the same, he said.

"Overall, we are excited about the growth prospects, and we're interested in investing to continue the growth. But there's no specific project identified at this point. But as demand grows, we are very interested in investing in additional infrastructure and facilities and people," Carmen said. 

Modern Aviation is a growing company building a national network of FBO properties. “Our goal is to do more acquisitions and in some cases developments of new FBOs. Our goal is to build a national network,” Carmen said Friday. 

Carmen is joined in the effort by Emmanuel Yapo, co-founder and the executive vice president of strategy and corporate development at Modern Aviation, who previously served as director of corporate development for Atlantic Aviation, according to the release. Both founders have extensive backgrounds in the industry.

Modern Aviation has secured the backing of the private equity fund Tiger Infrastructure Partners, a middle-market equity firm that invests in growing infrastructure platforms.

"We are very excited to back Mark and his team at Modern Aviation with our capital and work with them as they seek to build a major new FBO platform company," said Emil Henry, Tiger's managing partner, in the release.
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