The new owner of a North Bay aircraft charter and refurbishment company sees room for international growth.
Chorus Aviation, a Halifax-based holding company, acquired Voyageur Airways last spring in an $80-million deal that was finalized May 1.
Joe Randell, Chorus Aviation president-CEO, said picking up Voyageur – with its significant international charter operation and expansive North Bay shop and hangar space – fits into his company’s growth and diversification strategy.
With publicly traded Chorus’ access to capital and resources, Randell foresees an opportunity to expand Voyageur’s domestic and international customer base in the aircraft refurbishment business.
“The facilities certainly offer a base on which potentially you can grow the business.”
Chorus owns Jazz Aviation LP, operating under the Air Canada Express and Jazz Charters names.
The company recorded a $31.4-million in the second quarter and has plans to grow its aircraft leasing portfolio.
Established in 1968, Voyageur was a privately owned air charter and maintenance company founded by president and CEO Max Shapiro, and provides a variety of airport servicing, including refuelling and storage at Jack Garland Airport.
With 18 owned and leased aircraft, Voyageur provides specialty flying operations, including medical, logistical and humanitarian flights for government agencies and international non-governmental organizations. Its aircraft, including Bombardier Dash 8-300 turboprops and CRJ-200 jets, operate in Canada, Africa and Central Asia.
“I have to admire Max tremendously, a lone entrepreneur, to be able to grow the business in the way that he did to have such good following in customer and clients,” said Randell. “He’s gained a very good reputation over the years.”
Randell said his business relationship with Shapiro dates back 30 years, when both served on the Air Transport Association of Canada board.
“We’ve been talking about possibilities off and on for some time. We’ve always had a good relaxed relationship with Max and certainly a great deal of respect for him, his team and their capabilities.
“It became sort of a natural thing to happen in the end, no forcing anyone in any shape or form.”
The North Bay operation will continue operating under the Voyageur banner with Shapiro committed to stay as president for three more years, and his core management team remaining for at least five years.
“Our plan is to keep Voyageur as a separate and distinct organization run out of North Bay,” said Randell. “We’re not consolidating it into Chorus or Jazz. It will continue to operate in its own right and further grow and build upon the successful operation that was built over the years.”
For competitive reasons, Randell was vague on the details of any future investments for the shop and job creation in North Bay.
“It all depends on bringing in the business and being able to handle any opportunities that are there.”
Randell said the strength of Voyageur is its specialty maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, which includes a design engineering team, and its competitive track record for bringing contracts into North Bay. Privately held Voyageur ended its last fiscal year with an adjusted EBITDA of $16.9 million.
Voyageur is a Transport Canada-approved air operator and has certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency.
“This was something very appealing to us,” said Randell. “They provide services that we weren’t previously doing within Jazz or Chorus.”
With 260 employees, Voyageur occupies 200,000 square feet of shop space inside the former air force hangars at Jack Garland Airport, and has bases overseas for its charter aircraft.