The Jackson Hole Airport wants another couple of months to review and negotiate the possible purchase of Jackson Hole Aviation, a sale delayed for nearly two years by litigation.
A purchase agreement for the fixed-based operator, at the time for $26 million, was primed to close in May 2018, but a series of lawsuits spearheaded by West Bank resident Greg Herrick put the deal on hold. The last of the legal challenges, related to the airport’s use of revenue bonds to finance its business acquisition, was settled in November in the airport’s favor, starting a 60-day clock to agree to a new pricetag and close the deal. That clock was running through the holiday season, Jackson Hole Airport’s busiest time of year, and scant progress was made on dealing with Jackson Hole Aviation owner Jeff Brown, according to Airport Director Jim Elwood.
Now the airport is asking its board of directors to approve a 60-day extension to the purchase agreement.
“We are not in a much different place [now] than we were when the lawsuit was settled,” Elwood said. “There really hasn’t been time to do anything about that.”
The airport board is scheduled to review the extension at 9 a.m. Thursday during a special meeting. Two other items are on the agenda: a purchase of renewable energy credits to offset airport employees’ carbon emissions from commuting to work and an amendment to the airport’s budget.
Elwood said he wasn’t sure whether the Jackson Hole Aviation purchase would move forward.
“The actual interest level is unknown to us, because there haven’t been any discussions other than saying we should have discussions,” he said. “I think they’re interested enough to have this amendment to the asset purchase agreement, but anything beyond that would be an unknown.”
The airport, he said, does not have any meetings scheduled to resume negotiations with Brown, who did not return a phone call requesting comment.
The former $26 million sale price of Jackson Hole Aviation, which provides services like hangaring and fueling, was determined based on a five-year lease that the airport was in essence going to be buying out. The airport owned almost all of businesses’ physical assets, except for $330,000 — just 1.3% of the sale price.
Elwood has declined to speculate about how the price could be adjusted, although presumably it would be adjusted downward because the airport would be buying the rights to about three years of operations and profits instead of five years.
The airport started down the track of seeking to buy Jackson Hole Aviation because of an application from Herrick to start a competing fixed-based operator. Because the airport is a frequent recipient of federal grants, Federal Aviation Administration regulations required accommodating the competition — unless the airport itself owned and operated the business.