Wheels Up has entered into a definitive agreement to become publicly-traded via a merger with special purpose a cquisition company, Aspirational, in a transaction that values Wheels Up at an enterprise value of $2.1 billion. Aspirational was formed and is led by a partnership of experienced consumer investors, including chairman and CEO Ravi Thakran, private equity veteran and former Group Chairman of LVMH Asia. Additionally, L Catterton, the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm, is a minority shareholder. Upon closing of the transaction, Wheels Up will be the first private aviation platform to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: UP).
Wheels Up was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Kenny Dichter. With Wheels Up, Dichter has pioneered the next evolution of private aviation, starting with a unique membership model and an exclusive fleet of King Air 350i aircraft. In the seven years since it was founded, Wheels Up has quickly became a well-known brand. Several strategic acquisitions and an exclusive co-marketing partnership with Delta Air Lines have expanded Wheels Up’s operational and technological footprint.
Today, Wheels Up offers a comprehensive total aviation solution including membership programs, on-demand private flights across all cabin categories, aircraft management, whole aircraft sales, corporate solutions, signature events, and commercial travel benefits through its strategic partnership with Delta Air Lines. In 2020, the company had flown more than 150,000 passengers, utilizing its access to over 1,500 owned, managed, and third-party partner aircraft.
Driven by innovation Wheels Up pioneered a suite of technology-driven solutions to make it easier to choose a safe, high-quality aircraft option that caters to a range of financial and travel needs, they company says. With the Wheels Up app, flyers can view real-time inventory and purchase dynamically priced flights, making it possible to instantaneously search, book and fly privately. The marketplace technology powering the Wheels Up platform is proprietary and includes the leading flight management system, Avianis, that is powering many operators across the country and revolutionizing the industry.
The company’s current management team will continue to lead Wheels Up. Aspirational’s chairman and CEO, Ravi Thakran, former Group chairman of LVMH South and Southeast Asia, and Australia/New Zealand and former managing partner of L Catterton Asia, will join the combined company’s Board of Directors upon completion of the transaction.
“We are excited about crossing this milestone and our new partnership with Aspirational,” says Kenny Dichter, Founder & CEO of Wheels Up. We be lieve this will allow us to actualize our founding goal of democratizing private aviation, through our unique membership model, suite of products and benefits, and by bringing the shared economy to private aviation through our Wheels Up app. We are looking forward to joining forces with the Aspirational team as we continue to accelerate our global growth and expansion.”
Aspirational Chairman & CEO Thakran adds: “When we founded Aspirational, Wheels Up was exactly the kind of company we wanted to partner with. Kenny and his world-class team have created a truly iconic brand built upon years of exceptional, personalized customer experiences. They are a clear leader and innovator in the space and we look forward to working together to introduce Wheels Up to the global stage. We see many opportunities to leverage our experience and relationships to partner with other aspirational and luxury brands and to expand to international markets.”