Wheels Up goes public

Wheels Up, which operates a fleet of 1,500 twin turboprops and business jets, has entered into an agreement to become publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange via a merger with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp.

The deal values Wheels Up at $2.1 billion and delivers the company $790 million in cash, including a $550 million PIPE (private investment in public equity) and up to $240 million in cash held in the trust account of Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp. The deal is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2021, at which time the company will be renamed Wheels Up Experience Inc. It will trade under the UP ticker symbol and be the first private aviation company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Wheels Up, with its 1,500-strong fleet of twin turboprops and business jets (335 owned, operated, and managed by the company; another 1,200 partnered with third parties) and 9,000 individual and corporate ownerships, is second only to fractional ownership NetJets. In 2020, the company flew more than 150,000 passengers in its membership programs and on-demand private flights. Formed in 2013, Wheels Up has steadily boosted its holdings. In 2019 alone it attracted investments and partnerships including TMC Jets, Delta Air Lines’ Delta Private Jets, and Gama Aviation Signature US.

The deal will allow Wheels Up to take advantage of Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle’s strengths to give it a global presence. “We are looking forward to joining forces with the Aspirational team as we continue to accelerate our global growth and expansion,” said Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter. “This will be like Air B and B meets Uber, to bring transportation to thousands of people.”

Ravi Thakran, chairman and CEO of Aspirational and a former group chairman of luxury goods firm LVMH South and Southeast Asia, and Australia/New Zealand, said of the merger, “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. We see many opportunities to leverage our experience and relationships to partner with other aspirational and luxury brands and to expand to international markets.”

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