New owners take the reins at Grob

 - November 13, 2006, 5:39 AM

Executive Jet Investments (EJI)–a small group of largely anonymous Swiss private investors–has completed an acquisition of a majority stake in German airframer Grob for an undisclosed amount of money. The Grob family has retained a “not insignificant” minority holding, but EJI effectively has full control of the company and now runs it through a new Zurich-based holding company called Grob Aerospace AG.

EJI already had held a 50-percent stake in the Grob SPn light jet program. The group is led by Niall Olver, a Swiss citizen of South African origin, who is now CEO of Grob Aerospace AG.

Olver is also currently CEO of ExecuJet Aviation, the Zurich-based business aviation services group that has aircraft management, charter, maintenance and sales operations in Europe, Dubai, Australia, South Africa and Mexico. ExecuJet, which is also a distributor for Bombardier in some 37 countries, is handling all sales and support for the SPn outside North America.

At an October 5 press briefing in Grob’s German manufacturing base at Tussenhausen-Mattsies, Olver said that the future running of ExecuJet will now be reviewed. He said that the development of the SPn is already fully funded without external debt, but he would not reveal the full cost of the new aircraft. According to EJI, the main reason for the Grob family selling its controlling stake was the planned retirement of its patriarch, Dr. Burkhart Grob.

Future Grob developments, such as stretched versions of the SPn, would require further funding.  Olver said that this could result in changes to the ways ExecuJet and Grob are capitalized and structured. He stressed that ExecuJet itself has no financial stake in Grob and that no changes to Grob’s existing management are planned.

In addition to the SPn program, Grob is still contemplating whether to take the long-planned G160 single turboprop to market. Olver said that if the program is given a final green light, it will likely be re-engined to offer cruise speed of more than 300 knots and a cargo door will be added. A final decision is anticipated before year-end, with the G160 being an enlarged six-seater as the entry-level product in a family of aircraft to challenge rivals such as the Pilatus PC-12 and Socata TBM 850.

Meanwhile, the smaller G140 turboprop is essentially fully developed but has yet to complete certification. Grob’s new owners say they will formally launch this program only with a substantial fleet order. Grob also continues to manufacture the G120 piston single trainer and has lately received a significant new order from the French military.