Priester/Mayo – a family acquisition – One Minute Week

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The first nine months of 2022 have seen some significant operator acquisitions. Global Medical Response bought GrandView Aviation; Wheels Up acquired Alante Air Charter; and VistaJet bought Air Hamburg and Jet Edge – and others.

But the acquisition of Mayo Aviation by Priester Aviation, announced this week, stands out. Even though the two companies are strikingly similar.

Andy Priester, chair and CEO is the third generation to run Priester Aviation since it launched in 1945. It manages 57 aircraft.

Mayo Aviation, which operates and maintains 17 aircraft, was founded in Colorado in 1978 by CEO Bill Mayo’s parents. 

With so much in common, it is not surprising that Bill and Andy have been friends for more than 20 years. During breakfast at the Air Charter Safety Foundation conference in April, Andy asked Bill to call him if he was ever interested in selling. To his surprise, Bill said they should talk. 

“This is a deal born out of friendship. Our two companies are cut from the same cloth. This is a very different to most acquisitions,” says Priester. “We recognise that we have two very talented teams and two businesses built on relationships. Customers have trusted Bill and his team for decades, in the same way our customers trust Priester.”

The two companies will be run separately and meet regularly to discuss common problems and share ideas and best practices. Bill says integrating operating software would be a good example, where the two companies could share resources.

“There will be situations where we can use the two businesses to address the needs of customers – Priester management customers may want to use Mayo’s Part 145 Repair Station, for example,” says Andy.

He says one way they will judge the success of the acquisition is retaining customers. “This week, Bill and I met with every one of Bill’s customers and I said we are going to lean into everything that Bill and his family have done for the last 40 years,” he says. 

Mayo’s longest running customer is Flight For Life Colorado – which has been with the company for 43 years.

Andy says Priester may look at other similar acquisitions in a few years’ time. “There are quite a few operators that were launched in the 1980s and 1990s where kids do not want to take over and selling to private equity does not feel right,” says Andy. “In a couple of years, we may be interested in partnering up with the same foundation of taking care of their people and having similar family values.” This could include international management companies. 

Bill says that Mayo had received numerous offers – especially in the past few years. “I care too much about our team, family and customers to sell to anyone,” he says. “When I visited Priester and walked through the front door of Andy’s business it felt just like I walked through the front door of my shop. There is something different about businesses with the founder’s name on the door.”

The deal is expected to close in the next month. Bill is planning to stay beyond that. He adds: “I have agreed to stay until Andy tells me to leave.”

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