As it faces four lawsuits, AeroVanti’s claim of getting $100 million in aircraft financing seems questionable.
Did AeroVanti really get $100 million in financing last year, as it claimed?
The answer appears to be no.
In October 2022, the private jet flight provider, now facing four customer lawsuits, issued a press release touting, “AeroVanti Club announces up to $100m aircraft financing vehicle.”
It read, “Continuing its pursuit of transforming the private aviation industry, AeroVanti Club today announced a new investment vehicle of up to $100 million that will fund a major aircraft fleet expansion.”
It continued, “The $100 million investment led by Lafayette Aircraft Leasing will fund a significant fleet expansion and allow the company to rapidly scale to meet customer demand. The first plane of this fleet expansion – an Embraer Phenom 100 – recently arrived at the company’s headquarters in Sarasota, Florida.”
Founder and then CEO Patrick Britton-Harr told us at the time the investment would spur plans to acquire more of the Embraer VLJs and even Boeing 767 for sports team charters.
There was no website for Lafayette Aircraft Leasing, and the contact provided didn’t respond to our inquiries.
However, Lafayette came to our attention again as we tracked that initial Phenom 100 as part of our recent coverage.
It turns out that Lafayette Aircraft Leasing is a thing.
It is a Delaware LLC set up in May 2022.
Sources tell Private Jet Card Comparisons the LLC was used to purchase N669AS from Airshare.
Lafayette then did lease the airplane to AeroVanti last year.
The Phenom 100’s last flight, according to Flight Aware, was to Dallas on May 11, and it is now listed for sale on the website of Jetco, a France-based aircraft broker.
So, what about the $100 million investment “led by Lafayette Aircraft Leasing?”
Two sources say that there were never more than discussions between Lafayette’s principals and Britton-Harr about leasing more aircraft to AeroVanti.
The sources say there was never any plan to invest and that AeroVanti was merely a customer leasing an airplane.
Officials with JetCo and Lafayette declined to discuss the relationship except to confirm that AeroVanti did lease the Phenom 100 for a brief period.
In addition to multiple lawsuits from customers, AeroVanti has seen several airplanes repossessed.
It is also alleged by members that AeroVanti diverted funds for acquiring airplanes to sponsorships with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Cubs, US Sailing, and others.
Britton-Harr recently denied our report about missing payroll and about being grounded in a June 30th interview with the Business Observer, calling them “totally false.”
However, his payroll denials are contradicted in an email sent to AeroVanti employees on June 6 with the subject line “Paychecks,” in which he is copied.
In it, Vice President, Operations Joey Giordano, wrote, “The company is not closing or going out of business, but due to repercussions of recent events, is awaiting some capital in order to get back on track and continue on a path of success. The capital is expected to come in two weeks or so.”
He continued, “[W]e understand that you have other obligations that need immediate attention financially, and you must do what is right for you and your family. There are no hard feelings if you decide that AeroVanti isn’t the right path for you. For those that stay, there could be very green valley’s ahead to enjoy! You may also decide that you will not work until you get a paycheck. We understand. You may decide to simply work from home until you get a paycheck.”
In terms of being grounded, Paolo Ferreri, who was named Interim COO in February, told us directly AeroVanti’s fleet was indeed currently parked.
Multiple members also said their AeroVanti reps told them the same.
Lawsuits allege while AeroVanti made claims of having around a dozen airplanes, typically only a couple were airworthy at any one time.
The 2021 start-up is thought to have had as many as 400 members.
Ryan C. Wagner of WLG Firm in Ft. Lauderdale, who filed the first two lawsuits, said, “Based on the information and documentation that was discovered, and continues to be discovered, the activities and misappropriation of funds related to AeroVanti’s Top Gun Membership, are hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme.”