Air Transport World

The deal maker; from selling snowmobiles to saving aircraft companies, Laurent Beaudoin has made Bombardier a world-class player. (Company Profile)

There's a tale about the young man who goes to work for his father-in-law, because no one else will hire him. In Montreal, there is a new version of the story.

In 1964, a young Quebecois, Laurent Beaudoin, went to work for his father-in-law, Ski-Doo snowmobile inventor J. Armand Bombardier. As general manager, Beaudoin vowed to and succeeded in broadening the company's base, from snowmobiles and subway cars to corporate and regional aircraft. By acquiring technology from loss-ridden companies and implementing Quebec's flat management, Beaudoin has transformed Bombardier into a diversified, profitable enterprise over the years. It's a tactic that he and his associates have used repeatedly and successfully. La methode japonaise, some say.

This past March, Bombardier finalized its acquisition of Boeing/de Havilland. To refer to Beaudoin as the savior of de Havilland may be close to heresy in the predominantly Catholic Quebec but the federal and Ontario governments were relieved when Bombardier agreed to acquire the money-losing maker of regional aircraft after the offer by Aerospatiale and Alenia was torpedoed by the European Commission. Also, it seemed that Investment Canada, which oversees all sales of Canadian companies to foreign interest, took a dim view of the ATR group's demand for C$1 billion to keep de Havilland open and then, only as a parts supplier for Toulouse.

After six years, de Havilland is back in Canadian hands. Bombardier paid C$43.3 million for a 51% stake. Ontario paid C$41 million for a 49% share in the newly formed entity, de Havilland, Inc., a division of Bombardier Group.

Earlier acquisitions of Northern Ireland's Short Brothers from the U.K. government, Learjet from its Chapter 11 parent, Integrated Resources and Canadair from the Canadian government have followed a similar pattern: Wait until the last possible minute, negotiate for a rock-bottom price and when possible, get the former owners to pay past bills and provide seed money. …

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