Private Equity Firm Purchased Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch flies (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Alan Boyle at Geek Wire reports that a private equity firm owned by a billionaire Donald Trump supporter that specializes n distressed companies is the new owners of Sttratolaunch.

Sounds about right. Stratolaunch has always been the indulgence of a billionaire. And it was certainly distressed.

Stephen Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital Management purchased the company from the estate of the late Paul Allen, who had bankrolled the development of the company’s giant, twin fuselage aircraft that is designed to air launch satellites. The airplane was built by Scaled Composites.

That was the original goal, anyway. Jody Allen, the executor of her brother Paul’s estate, reportedly had no interest in launching satellites. The company canceled its rocket development program last January and laid off more than 50 employees.

The Stratolaunch aircraft made its maiden flight on April 13 from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Reports then circulated that the operation was for sale.

“Our near-term launch vehicle development strategy focuses on providing customizable, reusable, and affordable rocket-powered testbed vehicles and associated flight services,” Stratolaunch said in announcing its sale to an unidentified owner in October.

Stratolaunch President and CEO Jean Floyd tweeted on Tuesday that the company has since gone on a hiring spree.

Feinberg is the co-founder, executive chairman, and co-CEO of Cerberus. He donated $1 million to the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign five days before the 2016 election. Trump subsequently named the billionaire to chair the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

Cerberus has invested in a broad range of companies in different industries, including weapons and defense. It controls DynCorp, which is one of America’s largest private military contractors. The company trains Afghanistan’s police force and assists in their narcotics-trafficking activities.

There seems to be a good overlap between Feinberg’s and Cerberus’ military and intelligence ties and Stratolaunch’s business strategy. “Affordable rocket-powered testbed vehicles” and “high-speed flight test services” sounds like services the Pentagon could use.

Boyle included a link to a New York Times feature about how Feinberg’s company drove gun maker Remington Arms into bankruptcy after buying it, extracting hundreds of millions of dollars up front, and loading the 203-year old company with $950 million in debt. The company also obtained million is subsidies from the city of Huntsville and the state of Alabama.

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