Orange County Business Journal

Costa Mesa Aircraft Painter Gets Private Equity Investment

Jerry Sullivan Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Los Angeles-based private equity firm Vance Street Capital LLC has made an undisclosed investment in Leading Edge Aviation Services Inc. in Costa Mesa, a leading painter of commercial and military aircraft.

Leading Edge’s management joined in the investment.

The company is led by founder and chief executive Mike Manclark, who was honored last month at the Business Journal’s annual Excellence in Enterpreneurship Awards. Leading Edge has long-term contracts to paint plans for a number of large airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

The company started in 1989 as a small aircraft-detailing business with five employees at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. It’s now among the largest in the aircraft industry with more than $50 million in annual revenue and about 1,350 workers companywide—25 at its headquarters here.

Company operations include five hangars—a total of 235,000 square feet—and 325 workers at Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville in San Bernardino County. Its other facilities are in Mississippi, Texas, Florida and South Carolina.

Vance Street’s investment in Leading Edge comes as aircraft sales remain strong despite some turbulence for airlines, which were hit by cutbacks on travel during the recession and have since faced rising costs on fuel.

Leading Edge has benefited from some shifts in the airline industry. It currently has a contract to repaint 650 planes in the wake of the merger of Chicago-based United Air Lines Inc. and Houston-based Continental Airlines to form the world’s largest carrier.

“Leading Edge is poised for significant growth and with the help of Vance Street’s strategic and financial resources, our management team is confident that we can take this company to the next level,” Manclark said.

Vance Street Capital specializes in investments in middle-market companies with values of up to $200 million. Vance Street has extensive experience investing with company managers, family owners and other co-investors.