AE Industrial Partners to acquire Columbia Helicopters

AE Industrial Partners, LP, a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense and government services, power generation, and specialty industrial markets, announced on July 18 that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Columbia Helicopters, a leading provider of heavy-lift rotorcraft services with extensive manufacturing and MRO capabilities. Columbia’s CEO Steve Bandy will remain in his role, while majority owner Nancy Lematta will retain a significant ownership position in the company. Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close later this year, are not being disclosed.

Columbia Helicopters Chinook
The news of Columbia’s sale to AE Industrial Partners comes five months after Bristow Group terminated its own attempt to buy the company. Skip Robinson Photo
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Columbia Helicopters is a leading owner and provider of heavy-lift rotorcraft, manufacturing, and MRO services to a variety of end markets including military support, firefighting, and on-shore oil-and-gas. Columbia is known for its industry-leading reliability, safety, and innovation. Founded in 1957 by industry pioneer Wes Lematta and based in Aurora, Oregon, Columbia holds many aviation authorizations, including a Department of Defense (DoD) Commercial Airlift Review Board (CARB) certification, which allows the company to perform outsourced military transport, among other mission-critical operations.

“This is an exciting new phase of evolution for Columbia,” said Bandy. “We have always taken pride in our dedicated people and how they deliver inspired solutions to our customers. This new partnership supports our vision of growth and diversification. With AEI’s support and experience, Columbia’s commitment to safety and operational excellence and, above all else, our people — we are positioned for even greater success well into the future.”

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“Columbia is a clear industry leader with a storied history, offering a unique and differentiated platform, and a strong track record of best-in-class aviation services,” said Kirk Konert, a principal at AEI. “AEI is excited to support the company, as we believe there is a significant opportunity to build on the capabilities that Columbia has developed over the last 60 years, and expand into new markets and services. With the support of Columbia’s outstanding management team, we look forward to helping the company take the next step in its evolution.”

Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor, Rothschild & Co. served as financing advisor, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP served as financial advisor to AEI. Tonkon Torp LLP was legal advisor and Greenhill & Co., LLC was financial advisor to Columbia.

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