Weston Airport owner sells majority stake to group of investors

Weston made a loss of €421,335 last year and had net liabilities of €2.6m

The group of investors says it intends to “upgrade facilities and to develop Weston as a general aviation centre”. Photograph courtesy of Conneely Group

The group of investors says it intends to “upgrade facilities and to develop Weston as a general aviation centre”. Photograph courtesy of Conneely Group

 

The owner of Weston Airport, which straddles the border between Dublin and Kildare, has sold a majority stake in the business to a group of investors that includes Stripe co-founder John Collison.

Galway-based Brian Conneely has agreed to sell the stake to an investment group led by Derick Walshe, a Limerick-based financier. The investors include John Brennan, Catherine Greene, Gerald Dundon and Mr Collison.

In a statement the group said it intends to “upgrade facilities and to develop Weston as a general aviation centre”. The deal is subject to the completion of due diligence and regulatory consents. Details of the transaction were revealed in the Currency.

Latest accounts for Weston Aviation Academy Ltd, which operates the airport, show that it made a loss of €421,335 in the year to June 30th, 2021, an increase on the €58,666 deficit of a year earlier.

It had net liabilities of just under €2.6 million at the year end, and creditors were owed €5.3 million. This included €1.3 million owed to Brian Conneely & Company Ltd.

The airport closed in March last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, reopening in October. The accounts state that it has “traded successfully” since then, with the Government’s wage subsidy scheme and rates waiver being of “assistance in this period”.

Upgrade facilities

The statement said the investment plan would modernise facilities at Weston to create a “best-in-class experience” for airport users, employees and the local community. Bar, restaurant and conference facilities are to be enhanced and improvements will also be made to the terminal, aircraft storage and hangar areas.

All staff will be retained and it is envisaged that additional employment could be created as new services are introduced.

Commenting on the investment, Mr Walshe said: “A vibrant Weston is central to the health of general aviation in Ireland. Our investors are aviation enthusiasts who are focused on turning Weston into a state-of-the-art facility.

“Our plans are to invest in and upgrade the existing aviation and non-aviation facilities, and to create a destination that is open and welcoming to the local community. We are committed to revitalising Weston to the betterment of aviation in Ireland.”

Weston Airport was established in 1931 by Darby Kennedy, a founding father of aviation in Ireland. Situated on 250 acres between Lucan and Celbridge, Weston operates flight training, flight clubs, with light aircraft and helicopters predominantly using the facility.

It was previously owned by the late Jim Mansfield, the entrepreneur best known for developing the Citywest hotel and golf resort in Saggart, Co Dublin. Mr Conneely purchased the airport from a receiver to Mr Mansfield’s business interests for a reported €3.5 million in 2013.