The Wheels Up move follows private aviation and eVTOL focused SPAC filings from Flexjet chairman Kenn Ricci, Surf Air, and Blade in recent months
This morning, a report from Reuters claims Wheels Up is in discussions with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp to go public through a merger with the SPAC blank-check acquisition company. The article said the deal could value the private aviation provider at “more than $2 billion.”
According to a Private Jet Card Comparisons’ analysis, Wheels Up is the second-largest operator of for-hire private aircraft behind NetJets with an estimated 8.3% of the market.
Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp priced its initial public offering of 22,500,000 units at $10.00 per unit on the New York Stock Exchange in September.
According to a press release, ACLC’s management team is led by Ravi Thakran as chairman and chief executive officer and Mark Bedingham as vice-chairman.
According to the Financial Times, Thakran also serves as LVMH chairman for south-east and south Asia and the Middle East and Australia. LVMH owns Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hublot, and many luxury brands, including hotel and train operator Belmond.
LinkedIn lists Bedingham as a former MD for LVMH’s Moet Hennessy group in Asia.
The October profile of Thakran reports the SPAC will focus on “businesses with premium brands that offer an aspirational lifestyle experience to consumers.” LVMH and another fund related to Bernard Arnault are investors.
Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter has long said he believes his brand can expand beyond private aviation. In November, he told an industry conference expanding to yachts, villas, and other luxury goods could be a fit.
Wheels Up growth
In the past 24 months, Wheels Up has acquired four of the 10 largest private aviation charter operators in the U.S. As of its Q3 disclosure Delta Air Lines said it retains a 24% stake in the company. That interest comes from the sale of its Delta Private Jets unit to Wheels Up, which closed in January 2020.
This month, it bought Mountain Air, a large operator of Citation X super-midsize aircraft giving Wheels Up a fleet of over 350 owned, leased, and managed private aircraft. Wheels Up was founded in 2013, selling jet card memberships on a fleet of three King Air 350i turboprops.
It also launched an aircraft sales division and consolidated its aircraft management teams acquired via Delta Private Jets and Gama Aviation Signature.
Private aviation looks set to continue its strong rebound. Over 95% of consumers who started using private jets due to COVID-19 said they plan to continue after the pandemic subsides, according to new research.
In November, Kenn Ricci, principal of Directional Aviation, which owns Flexjet, Sentient Jet, PrivateFly, and FXAir, announced a separate SPAC with Zanite Acquisition Corporation thought to be targeting futuristic aviation solutions. Last August, Surf Air announced a planned SPAC, and last month, Blade made a similar announcement.
Apparently, nothing is set yet. Reuters reports it is possible, talks could still collapse.
A spokesperson for Wheels Up tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “Per our longstanding policy, we don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”