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News - 15 April 2008

Shoreham Airport closes, changes hands and opens again in 24 hours.

Shoreham Airport previously owned by the troubled Erinaceous Group has closed and reopened after being sold off to a related company all in the space of a single day but its not as simple as it seems.

The Erinaceous Group which had owned the airport went into administration on Monday, with debts of a quarter of a billion pounds forcing all flights to be grounded because of fears the insurance might no longer be valid but flights to Cannes and Deauville in Normandy resumed again in the same day.

Albemarle Shoreham Airport Limited, which already owns the commercial buildings at Shoreham, bought the Erinaceous Group's interest on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum.

However, before the deal can be completed it requires the consent of both Brighton & Hove and Worthing Councils – the previous owners of the facility who sold it to Erinaceous for £8.6m in July 2006.

Albemarle must satisfy both Council’s that Albemarle are able to fulfil all the requirements needed to operate the airport and, under the terms of the original sale agreement, it is a possibility that it may return to Council control if they can’t.

Albemarle said it was committed to regenerating the airport. A spokesman said: "Albemarle remains committed to the regeneration of the airport in accordance with the vision of the joint owning councils, when the airport was originally sold in June 2006. "The airport reopens for business immediately and we are delighted this has taken place within one day of it going into administration."

Erinaceous and Albemarle were also involved with another airport in the south-east with a complicated ownership history. Two Erinaceous executives struck a deal in 2007 to split ownership of Fairoaks Airport near Woking, which the Erinaceous company had previously purchased.

The property holding companies of the airport were bought by an Erinaceous subsidiary in a similar manner to Shoreham Airport, and some of its operating arms were bought by a company controlled by Erinaceous founder and former chief executive, Neil Bellis.

In July 2007 Erinaceous subsidiary Albemarle, which has now purchased Shoreham Airport, bought part of the Fairoaks Airport group of companies for £42m.

After this Longmint, a company owned by Neil Bellis and his sister-in-law, Lucy Cummings and his wife, Juliet, bought some of the companies in the group for £1. At the time the deal caused alarm among Erinaceous shareholders, who were concerned that it would deprive them of value at a time when Erinaceous’s shares had plummeted. Neil Bellis was subsequently ousted as chief executive.

Fairoaks Airport was previously owned by the Alan Mann group of companies owned and controlled by Alan Mann.

Erinaceous bought Fairoaks Holdings and Fairoaks Airport Ltd, which control airport operations and hold some airport property. A company called Longmint bought Alan Mann Helicopters and Mann Aviation Group (Engineering) - two companies that sell and offer aviation-related services at Fairoaks Airport – paying just £1 for the loss making concerns.

Fast Helicopters, a Longmint subsidiary, is a tenenat at Shoreham Airport.

Read related items on:
Erinaceous Group plc
Shoreham Airport

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