Castle & Cooke, One FBO at a Time

Northwest addition gives it three locations; its resources offer opportunity to expand

EVERETT, WA — In late 2007, Castle & Cooke Aviation, based at Van Nuys Airport north of Los Angeles, bought the assets of fixed base operator Fliteline Services/Everett Jet Center at Paine Field here, bringing its number of locations to three, including Honolulu International Airport. The company has plans to expand in the U.S. and beyond, albeit at a one-at-a-time pace. It is owned by chairman and CEO David H. Murdock, who controls the company’s diverse portfolio of businesses that includes Dole food. Officials say that the Everett addition represents how they approach the market — buy an existing enterprise that is well-disciplined financially, and then explore opportunities for expansion.

Like many, the company grew into the FBO business via its corporate flight department operations, in this case at Van Nuys, relates executive vice president Steven Friedmann, who is based at Van Nuys and is responsible for the operation and growth of the mini-chain. Friedmann does this in concert with Richard Janisse, who is under contract as a consultant. Janisse is the former head of the AMR Combs chain of FBOs, which was subsequently bought out by Signature Flight Support.

Comments Friedmann, “We’re growing our FBOs one location at a time. Our model is more akin to organic growth, where we draw on one of our core competencies, real estate development. We consider ourselves a very disciplined buyer.

“In the case of Paine, we both bought a going concern and have begun developing real estate and an FBO simultaneously. And those are two different disciplines if you think about it.

“In Honolulu, we bought an aviation concern and a building there that was designed for an aviation use; and we’re renovating it, rehabilitating it, and turning it into a full-service FBO.

“We’ve watched the FBO consolidation and groups paying high multiples of earnings; we’ve chosen a different path. That’s to look for target markets, and carefully select airports with characteristics that we like and that give us the ability to go in and leverage on our strengths, which we believe are real estate development and buying businesses with a very disciplined approach to the financials.”

Castle & Cooke Aviation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Castle & Cooke, Inc, a diversified development, real estate, and operating company whose assets include master planned residential communities, commercial properties, and world class resorts along with transportation equipment leasing, brick and building material manufacturing, public warehousing, and corporate aviation servicing, according to the company.

Friedmann says the company considers itself a West-coast based network of FBOs and is focused first and foremost on what it already has in play. But opportunities exist, considering the parent’s resources and international presence.

Says Friedmann, “In time, once we create a steady foundation and base of business in Hawaii, it would be logical to look at the Pacific Rim for expansion.

“Dole food and Mr. Murdock have offices in 90 countries around the globe. He’s been in hundreds of FBOs around the world. We certainly would look at opportunities overseas.”

The paine field acquisition
In December, 2007, Castle & Cooke consummated a deal to acquire Fliteline Services/Everett Jet Center, owned by Jim Wilkinson, 70, since 1971, who has remained to serve as general manager. His minority partner, Terry Wilcoxson, has also stayed on as line services manager.

The FBO is the only one that sells retail fuel at Paine Field, which has a variety of aviation businesses but is dominated by the Boeing manufacturing plant that builds the 777 and the upcoming Dreamliner aircraft. While the airport allows corporate and other tenant self-fueling, including Boeing, the FBO has a 300,000-gallon fuel farm and has pumped more than six million gallons in a year. Much of that volume has been related to the former BF Goodrich Aerospace, now ATS, which overhauls airliners here.

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