The acquisition of the 20 Ross Aviation fixed-base operations (FBOs) is helping fill out Landmark Aviation’s network in the South and Southwest, but Landmark President and CEO Dan Bucaro says that the company is still actively looking to continue to expand in both North American and Western Europe.
Landmark Aviation this month announced plans to buy the Ross Aviation chain in a move that will grow Landmark’s network by nearly 50% to 60 FBOs in the U.S. Including its international bases, the Landmark chain will total 76 FBOs once the Ross acquisition is completed later this year.
Bucaro says the acquisition is part of an overall effort to fill out its network in a way that best connects its customers. "Clearly we had some holes in the South and Southwest," he says. The addition brings new bases in western Texas, including Midland and Laredo, along with other locations where Landmark doesn’t have a presence, including Denver and Santa Fe, N.M.
The acquisition does include one overlapping location – Scottsdale, Ariz., – and Bucaro says that the companies are still evaluating whether to combine the bases or take other action as part of the acquisition. It also would include a third Miami base, but for Bucaro that puts the company in a strong competitive position in an extremely competitive environment. He notes that each of the Miami locations represents a distinct market.
In all, he says, the Ross acquisition is highly complementary to the Landmark chain. It is a chain Landmark has eyed for some time, Bucaro says, noting that he’s had on-and-off discussions with co-founders Greg and Jeff Ross for some time. But negotiations became more serious in recent months. "Over the years, we believed it would be a good fit,” he says. A number of issues still need to be ironed out, he says, including what role Greg and Jeff Ross will play once the merger is completed.
As for the individual management of the bases, Bucaro says he hopes the existing managers and FBO employees will choose to remain in their roles under Landmark ownership. The Ross aviation FBOs are run similarly to Landmark with an emphasis on safety and service, he says.
Landmark will evaluate each Ross facility to determine what renovations or other upgrades are necessary to provide a consistent “customer experience” at each location, he says. If upgrades are necessary, Landmark expects to move forward with them aggressively.
Bucaro says the single largest difference between the Ross and Landmark chains is branding. Ross, which like Landmark grew through a series of acquisitions, retained the original brandings of each facility that it bought. Landmark, however, retains a single brand. The Ross FBOs will be rebranded to Landmark Aviation once the acquisition is complete, he says.
For Landmark, the acquisition is its largest in recent years and a major step in its growth plan. It also follows at least nine other acquisitions announced since The Carlyle Group reacquired the chain in late 2012. They have included significant and strategic bases, such as First Aviation Services in Teterboro, N.J.; the Panorama FBO in White Plains, N.Y.; and Galvin Flying Services in Seattle. Landmark also paved its entry into the U.K. in April with the announced acquisition of the three RSS Jet Center Limited bases.
Bucaro is hopeful that this flurry of activity will continue. While he notes that announcements may not come in the immediate future, Landmark still sees areas in its network that it would like to grow.
Bucaro reiterates that the company wants to build its network with a "focused and disciplined approach" that it believes would best connect its customers. But while he emphasizes that Landmark is hoping to increase the network, he also stresses "we're not trying to be the biggest. We don't worry about who has the most dots on a map." Landmark is focused on finding bases "more relevant to the customer base."
Helping make this happen in Landmark’s owner, The Carlyle Group. Carlyle, which helped build the Landmark chain over nearly three decades before selling it to Dubai Aerospace in 2007, stressed it wanted to take steps to grow the chain when it retook ownership in late 2012.
Bucaro notes that the transition under Carlyle had been fairly seamless. One major advantage, he says, is Carlyle is well versed in the business, saying the investment firm "was a very educated buyer." This includes the strong support received when Landmark discusses potential acquisitions.