Friday, June 17, 2011

Using FAA Private Jet Flight Data to Sniff Out Mergers

From DealJournal:

The Errant Flight that Tipped Off a Mega Merger
By Shira Ovide
Our Journal colleagues have a great story today about the potential to use FAA flight data on private planes to scrape information about possible mergers. For example, a Journal analysis of flight records found flights by executives at Caterpillar and Qwest could have tipped off investors to coming mergers. Both companies’ private jets made multiple trips to home bases of eventual takeover targets Bucyrus and CenturyLink, respectively.

How fitting. Today is the six-year anniversary of an errant flight that turned out to be a harbinger of a jumbo merger.

In 2005, Bank of America struck a roughly $35 billion deal to buy credit-card company MBNA. It was part of a string of acquisitions made by then-BofA CEO Ken Lewis, who used deals to transform his sleepy North Carolina bank into one of the biggest financial institutions in America.

But the secret takeover talks over the MBNA deal were partially exposed when the Delaware company’s executives, including the CEO, were caught up in a harrowing helicopter crash.
Here is the Associated Press dispatch from June 17, 2005:
“A corporate helicopter plunged tail-first into the East River just seconds after takeoff Friday afternoon, the second helicopter crash off Manhattan in the last four days. Rescuers pulled all eight on board out of the choppy water….Two pilots and six passengers, all businessmen with the international financial services company MBNA Corp., were aboard the Sikorski S-76 when it took off from the 34th Street heliport around 4:40 p.m., police said.”
MBNA faced questions about what a half dozen of their senior executives were doing in New York. Mostly the answers were that the executives were making a routine business trip....MORE