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Doss Aviation sold to private equity group

By: WAYNE HEILMAN
December 22, 2011
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Colorado Springs-based Doss Aviation has been acquired by a New York-based private equity firm that specializes in buying and growing companies in the aerospace, defense and maritime industries.

J.F. Lehman & Co., headed by former Navy secretary and 9-11 Commission member John Lehman, announced Thursday that it had acquired Doss for an undisclosed price, with debt financing arranged by BNP Paribas, Abacus Financial Group LLC and Babson Capital Management LLC.

“Doss Aviation is an ideal fit for J.F. Lehman,” Stephen Brooks, a J.F. Lehman partner, said in a press release. “Doss Aviation has strong, long-standing relationships with its customers, an outstanding workforce and a reputation for delivering exceptional customer service. We look forward to partnering with the management team to achieve the company’s strategic goals.” He was not available for further comment.

Doss President and CEO Kenneth Smith said Thursday that no immediate changes are planned in the company’s management or its workforce, which includes 20 employees at its headquarters and another 75 at the Air Force Academy to provide maintenance and repair services for the academy’s fleet of flight-training aircraft and to pilot the academy’s sailplane towing aircraft. The company also employs 165 in Pueblo under a 10-year Air Force contract awarded in 2006 to provide initial screening and training to pilot candidates and has 240 other employees at 14 other locations worldwide.

“I am pumped by this. It gives us the resources to grow,” Smith said. “J.F. Lehman bought us because we have been a very successful company in the defense sector and they want to grow us. We have aspirations to grow — we are in this business to win more contracts.”

Smith said Doss’ board of directors hired Charlotte, N.C.-based Fennebresque & Co. to find a buyer for the company, which was started in 1969 by a retired Army aviator in Alabama. The company was sold in 1989 and moved to the Springs in 1994. Purchase negotiations with J.F. Lehman began about nine months ago, he said.

J.F. Lehman was started by John Lehman in 1992 and has completed transaction totaling $1.6 billion. The company looks for “lower middle market companies with unique engineering competencies and technology-driven products and services whose performance is critical,” according to its website. J.F. Lehman’s target companies have “well-established product offerings and are leaders in certain or all their markets but lack the human or capital resources required for further growth,” according to the website.

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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