DALLAS — William Koch, president/COO of Seven Bar Enterprises, Inc., based near Love Field, seems primed for the position of growing a 59-year old family business. He comes from an aviation family — father Don spent most of his career with Aviall and companies — and has been involved in real estate, flight operations management, and operating fixed base operations, having served as president for the AMR Combs chain when it was owned by AMR Corporation. In February, 2003 Koch was hired by the Black family, owners of the 7Bar Ranch in New Mexico for three generations along with owning three FBOs and offering fixed wing air medical services. With training and sophisticated systems in place, Koch says the intent is to grow both sides of the Seven Bar business.
A. Rolfe Black took over as president of the family-owned Seven Bar Flying Service in 1969, and today serves as chairman. Son Wade Black is CEO and moved the aviation company’s headquarters from Albuquerque to Dallas, partly to begin an era of expansion. It was a common interest in the business, particularly in the FBO acquisition arena, that brought Wade Black and Koch together, recalls the latter. “I was involved with an investor group looking at acquisitions, and one of the best resources I had was Wade Black. We got together often for lunch.
“We seemed to have the exact same vision of what we wanted,” explains Koch, “so we decided to team up. This company reminds me so much of the culture of Combs[-Gates]. It is today a 59-year old, third generation family business, and it feels like family. Yet, we’re as sophisticated as an AMR Combs was — the IT systems, the accounting systems, the highest standards of training. It’s the sophistication of a big company with the feel of a mid-sized company.”
Three FBOs; Expanding Air Medical Bases
Seven Bar Enterprises, Inc. is today a $25 million (annual revenues) company, according to Koch, with some 150 employees. It has three full-service FBOs: Seven Bar Albuquerque at Albuquerque Inter-national Airport; Seven Bar Four Corners at Farmington (NM) Four Corners Regional Airport; and, Sun Valley Aviation at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, ID.
It operates under contract for fixed-wing air medical services for the University of New Mexico Hospital; UNM Children’s Hospital Newborn Transport Program; Children’s Medical Center of Dallas; Aerocare (Lubbock, TX); Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston); and, Vanderbilt University Hospital Lifeflight (Nashville). King Airs, Citations, and Learjets make up the fleet of 15 business aircraft.
“Our two major lines of business are FBOs and a very solid flying operation,” explains Koch. “We also have some retail charter and a fractional ownership program, but it’s limited — three airplanes, and not a strategic part of our business in terms of growth going forward. Air medical is certainly our primary flying mission.” The company’s fractional program, Ascend, offers 1/8-to-1/2 shares with a monthly fee. The company also offers aircraft management.
“Our newest additions have been the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, a program we launched last year, and our latest is Vanderbilt University in Nashville. They have four helicopters based in Nashville to serve about a 100-mile radius. We serve the next band to about 400 nm with a King Air B200; then beyond that we have a Lear 35. They are so prominent in certain specialty areas that the scope is national and even international.”
Of the three FBOs, the one that generates the most revenue, Sun Valley Aviation, is also the one that brings with it the greatest uncertainty. That is, will the airport itself be relocated, and this after Seven Bar owners totally redeveloped its existing FBO at Friedman Memorial Airport.
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