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Manston airport: Former managing director Tony Freudmann acting for American group RiverOak who had £5m offer rejected before closure announcement

By Chris Price

The former managing director of Manston airport is working for the American group that attempted to buy the site, it has emerged.

Tony Freudmann led operations at the airport from 1997 to 2004 and is acting as spokesman for RiverOak Investment Corp LLC, who made a £5m offer for the site at the weekend, which was rejected a day later.

The company from Connecticut went public on its involvement after it was announced owner Ann Gloag is to close the airport on May 15, saying no "viable alternative" had been found.

RiverOak director Tony Freudmann
RiverOak director Tony Freudmann

After hearing of the airport's troubles, Mr Freudmann said he "made it my business" to find prospective buyers and decided to help RiverOak after a chance meeting.

He said: "My view all along has been that Manston's future is in cargo and engineering.

"By lucky chance I was introduced to RiverOak who have exactly the same view.

"My view all along has been that Manston's future is in cargo and engineering..." - Former Manston MD Tony Freudmann

"The aviation industry is quite small and not many people own airports so the problem was getting other people to look at it as none of them understood the business.

"They were scared by the cash burn and that is why it took PwC so long to sell the business for Infratil.

"There have been a number of parties who have looked at it and with RiverOak I have found a party who understand the business.

"History doesn't repeat itself, I know that. This offer is going back to where the airport was in 2003, which is developing a reputation as a cargo airport and operating in profit.

"The last 10 years has been a departure from that plan."

First revealed by political editor Paul Francis' blog, Mr Freudmann oversaw Manston's transfer from an RAF base to a commerical operation.

Tony Freudmann
Tony Freudmann

He was vice president of the Wiggins Group, which owned and ran the airport before it was sold to PlaneStation, where he was senior vice president between 1994 and 2005.

Mr Freudmann has also had his own consultancy – FT International – between 2009 and 2013 in which he "delivered high level consultancy services in relation to aviation and tourism development to the public and private sectors in the UK, Germany and America".

He is now chief executive officer of a firm called Annax Aviation Services in which he manages "the global regional airports and airlines strategy of a priately-owned investment group".

He was also instrumental in the failed attempt to establish flights between Manston and Virginia in America back in 2006.

The plug was pulled on that after poor ticket sales. Kent County Council lost £300,000 in the venture.

Manston airport before it closed
Manston airport before it closed

Mr Freudmann added: "One of the tragedies of this is what the staff have been through.

"There are 144 staff, a lot of whom are long-serving and loyal. The anxiety of the last few weeks has been awful. I feel very sorry for them.

"Our view is that if the airport is to grow and expand it needs all the staff there at the moment.

"The plan is to move forward on the same cost basis."

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