West Star partners with equity firm

Officials expect a partnership between West Star Aviation and an investment firm to promote further growth in a business that’s already substantially expanded its operations in Grand Junction.

West Star Aviation announced it had reached an agreement with Norwest Equity Partners involving what was characterized as a “significant investment” in West Star. The terms of the acquisition, completed April 28, weren’t disclosed.

“On behalf of our entire West Star team, we are confident that our new partnership with NEP will help us successfully achieve our next level of growth,” said Robert Raspberry, chief executive officer of West Star Aviation.

The West Star operation at Grand Junction Regional Airport is the largest for a company that also operates facilities in Illinois and Tennessee. In addition, West Star provides services at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in Aspen and Centennial Airport in Denver.

West Star has ranked as the top maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility for three consecutive years in the results of annual surveys conducted for Professional Pilot, a prominent publication in the aviation industry.

“West Star has done a great job to earn a global reputation as a highly valued, go-to MRO services provider, and we’re going to work hard to leverage their existing growth momentum along with our combined NEP capital and resources to further build and grow the company,” said Tim DeVries, managing general partner with NEP.

Todd Solow, another partner with NEP, agreed. “From expanding service capabilities and facilities to key contracts and strategic growth initiatives, West Star is well-positioned for continued success. The right team is also in place to help lead the way.”

In Grand Junction, West Star offers a range of services that include everything from scheduled maintenance and repairs to upgrades, painting and complete overhauls. The company works on most types of business jets, including those manufactured by Citation, Challenger, Embraer, Falcon, Gulfstream, Hawker and Learjet.

The construction of a 45,000-square-foot paint hangar last year accommodates two large aircraft at once, including the largest Gulfsteam and Global jets. Because larger jets offer much greater ranges, West Star can attract business from companies around the world.

The staff at West Star has grown along with its operations in Grand Junction, making the company one of the largest private employers in the Grand Valley.

Based in Minneapolis, NEP has raised $7.1 billion since its inception and invested that capital in companies with the goal of building them into industry leaders. Over the years, NEP has invested in such companies as Avia, Cray Research, Dairy Queen, Gymboree and Rosetta Stone.

The details of the investment in West Star weren’t disclosed. But Antares Capital in Chicago announced it served as an administrative agent, joint lead arranger and joint bookrunner on an $80 million senior secured credit facility to support the acquisition.

“Antares was creative in delivering a financing solution to support the growth plan for West Star Aviation,” Solow said.

David Swanson, managing director with Antares Capital, said he was pleased the company could support the deal.

“West Star Aviation is a team of industry veterans whose expertise and customer service has resulted in a leading market position and loyal customers,” Swanson said. “We look forward to working closely with the West Star team and NEP in driving operational excellence and performance for the company.”