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Legendary Lauda poised to bid for ownership of airline

January 16, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Former Formula 1 motor racing world champion and chief of Lauda Air, Niki Lauda, is poised to return to the aviation business.

Lauda has re-emerged as a potential bidder for Niki, the Austrian budget airline he founded.

Lauda originally set up Lauda Air in 1979 after retiring from motor racing. His Lauda Air business card famously bore the simple line: “Niki Lauda. Owner.”

Lauda Air was big in the Australian market, where it was run, highly successfully, by Richard Froggatt. Froggatt ended up being awarded one of Austria’s highest honours – the Knight’s Cross First Class – for his services.

In 1989, Lauda Air began long-haul flights from Vienna to Sydney and Melbourne via Bangkok. In the 1990s, it started to fly its Sydney and Melbourne flights via Kuala Lumpur and Bali.

Lauda sold that business to Austrian Airlines in 2000 and in 2003 he created budget airline Niki after buying up the assets of failed carrier Aero Lloyd Austria.

Lauda, now 68, has emerged as a likely bidder for Niki now that an Austrian court has appointed an administrator for the budget airline. This entailed the reversal of an earlier decision by a Berlin court to locate the insolvency in Germany. Administrators in Germany had provisionally agreed to sell Niki to British Airways owner IAG, which had planned to merge it with Vueling. That may now not be happening.

Lauda has always said he would bid for Niki if jurisdiction was moved to Austria.

“I will, of course, make an offer for Niki by January 19,” Lauda told Germany’s Handelsblatt business daily.

“The insolvency process is finally there where it belongs – in Austria,” he added. “I regret that so much time was wasted with the detour through Germany.”

Written by Peter Needham

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