It’s not the first time Utz Claassen has shown interest in Air Berlin. Known in Germany mostly as the former CEO of one of its largest utilities, Mr. Claassen made a play for Germany’s second-largest airline back in 2011. In those days, Air Berlin’s future looked much brighter. A gleaming new airport was set to open in the German capital a year later.
Back then, Mr. Claassen lost out to Etihad. The Gulf airline bought a chunk of Air Berlin and hoped to turn it into a base for flights to Europe and even across the Atlantic to the United States. Six years later, that strategy has failed quite spectacularly: Berlin’s new airport, marred by repeated embarrassing delays, has yet to open; and Etihad, which among other things struggled to secure code-sharing deals that would allow its dream to come true, finally pulled its funding for the airline in August.
And so the once-promising Air Berlin has found itself in an entirely new position: bankruptcy. But that hasn’t stopped Mr. Claassen. The German executive on Thursday launched a new €700-million bid for Air Berlin together with a group of international investors, according to the 17-page outline obtained by Handelsblatt.
He’s hardly the only one showing interest, now that the airline is on death’s door. Air Berlin’s executives, and a court-appointed advisor, can expect to have a half-dozen offers on their table when the bidding ends at 2 p.m. on Friday.