Carlisle Group, the investment house that owns the vast majority of stock in Piedmont Hawthorne, decided on March 1 to remove the for sale sign from its FBO chain–at least for now. Piedmont Hawthorne president Dean Harton told AIN, “It wasn’t much of a secret that the chain was for sale. The official public presentation was planned for September 15. You can imagine how that went. But even before September 11, money had been tight–too expensive for potential buyers.”
Harton reiterated that Carlisle Group is an investment firm and had acquired Piedmont Hawthorne five years ago with the idea of expanding the business and then selling when market value was optimum. The group’s average time of ownership for a company such as Piedmont Hawthorne is about five years, said Harton. “We thought the interest would come from foreign strategic buyers. After September 11 potential buyers opted to pull in their horns and protect what they had.”
The reshaped plan is to commit funds for an aggressive growth plan over the next two or three years, said Harton. The company has left the airline maintenance field, converting that focus to corporate aircraft. Company strategists have chosen not to expand its regional airline maintenance business. But acquiring more FBOs in strategic locations could be in the cards, said Harton. “We would be very aggressive about acquiring groups of FBOs, say four to 20. We’re not going to buy 10 per year one at a time, but we would buy 10 at once,” he said.