Mercury shakeup might rebrand some FBOs

 - October 6, 2006, 7:46 AM

“We’re still Mercury…for now,” is the way a customer service representative at one of the chain’s 16 FBOs responded to a question about the ongoing melding of Mercury Air Centers and Cor-porate Wings. At least one Mercury location–Charleston, S.C.–has changed to the Corporate Wings brand, and there are some indications that the trend could escalate in the wake of a management shakeup last month.

Mercury Air Centers’ headquarters in Atlanta has confirmed that Randall Jones, a former high-level executive at Flight Options, has replaced former Mercury president John Enticknap. Jones deferred comment on the management changes to Kenn Ricci, founder of Corporate Wings and founder and former CEO of fractional provider Flight Options.

Jones told AIN that Ricci would be prepared to discuss the management shift near the end of last month, after press time. (Another Mercury employee who asked not to be identified referred to Ricci with a chuckle as “the CEO of everybody.”) But some of the other issues related to the management changes have emerged.

Looking back, Mercury Air Group sold the Mercury Air Centers chain to investment firm Allied Capital last year. (Not all locations were included in the deal. Specifically, Long Beach, Calif., remained within the Mercury Air Group stable.) Ricci recently negotiated a deal with Allied Capital that involved shifting control of Corporate Wings to Mercury in exchange for an equity position with the chain. He had also indicated to AIN he would be assuming a position of authority within the company, which has apparently come to pass.

Two sources close to the deal have indicated that one possible business plan would be to rebrand the Mercury Air Centers that are sole providers on their respective airports, transforming them to Corporate Wings-branded facilities.

The resulting two-tier corporate structure would pave the way for a differential pricing policies. The newly transformed Corporate Wings FBO at Charleston is the sole FBO on the airport. One other Mercury location that conforms to that template is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, though the leasehold there is up for grabs. A previous request for proposal was thrown out earlier this year and a new one is in process. Mercury is among the bidders for the new contract at the busy airline hub.