Klapmeier investigating bid to split personal jet from Cirrus

Washington DC
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Alan Klapmeier, co-founder of Cirrus Design and president of its board of directors, is seeking investors in a possible bid to take control of the company's future flagship product, the Vision SF50 personal jet.

That bid would require buying the programme from Cirrus's chief investor, Arcapita Bank, which acquired a 58% stake in the company in 2001. Arcapita revealed in April that it was seeking outside investors to help fund development of the SF50.

Klapmeier says, and Cirrus executives confirm, that the company board supports his investigation of alternative streams of capital to accelerate design work on the SF50, which is continuing but at a slower rate due to depressed SR22 sales in the slow economy. He says the board provided him with an SF50 mock-up that he used to tour the USA from May to mid-June, meeting potential customers, suppliers and investors.

With money and approval in hand, Klapmeier says he would create a new company, ideally located in Duluth, that could finish SF50 certification and begin delivering the Williams International FJ33-4A-19-powered jet by late 2012 or early 2013. "The assumption is that it would be a new company," Klapmeier says. "The twist is how much of that company Cirrus would own. I don't expect [the new company] to be unrelated to Cirrus."

Cirrus president Brent Wouters, who took over the day-to-day operations of the company in December, appears to be sceptical of Klapmeier's effort. In an interview with Aero News Network, Wouters said: "We don't particularly see the future of Cirrus without the jet. Every last dollar we have available is going to that jet research and development programme." But Wouters admitted that in "a capital constrained world", the company has to "look at every opportunity".

Klapmeier says that although Cirrus has been funding the jet internally, "there was always an understanding" that the company would need some form of external financing, one of which is to find new investors and separate the companies.

If the board were to approve his plan, which he hopes to finalise in the form of a letter of intent, Klapmeier says the 375 orders for the jet would be transferred to the new company and deposit holders would be given the option of staying with the programme or getting a refund.

Cirrus had not yet set a price for the five-seat jet, though some company officials have stated a "typically equipped" SF50 will cost around $1.25 million. "It's fairly binary," says Klapmeier. "We either come to a solution or we don't."