JetSmarter, the Fort Lauderdale-based on-demand private jet travel service, is set to be acquired by a Dubai-based travel firm for an undisclosed price.
Vista Global, owned by Swiss billionaire Thomas Flohr and operator of private jet firms XOJET and VistaJet, announced Wednesday it would acquire JetSmarter in order to create a “global on-demand digital marketplace” for travelers. The acquisition is set to close in the second quarter of this year, according to a release from Vista Global.
JetSmarter CEO Sergey Petrossov did not respond to a request for comment. JetSmarter did not provide a statement in Vista Global’s news release.
A source familiar with the planned acquisition said Vista Global plans to double down on Fort Lauderdale by building out a “center for digital excellence”, with plans to hire more. Vista Global will continue to invest in the JetSmarter brand.
Doug Gollan, founder of PrivateJetCardComparisons.com and an industry analyst, said the move makes sense for Vista Global given the existing relationship JetSmarter had with XOJET.
“By integrating JetSmarter’s consumer app and digital booking technology with their operational management systems, since they own their fleets, VistaJet and XOJET will be able to sell private jet charters in real time,” Gollan said in an email. “Both VistaJet and XOJET are considered high quality operators, so now consumers who need a large jet at the last minute will be able to get it confirmed quickly and digitally.”
A representative for Flohr did not respond to a request for comment. Gollan reported on his website that Flohr said JetSmarter employees would be kept in Fort Lauderdale, but that he declined to comment on Petrossov’s future role.
JetSmarter made headlines for raising millions in venture funding from rapper Jay-Z and members of the Saudi royal family. It proclaimed itself a “unicorn,” valued at over $1 billion, in 2016. In February, the New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported the company was exploring a sale for a fraction of that value.
In recent years, the company ran into legal trouble. In the days leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, JetSmarter settled a lawsuit from members alleging deceptive business practices. It still faces another lawsuit from approximately 15 clients represented by famed New Jersey attorney Bruce Baldinger, who declined to accept the settlement. JetSmarter’s former president Edward Gennady Barsky was also charged with embezzlement in an unrelated case in 2017.
As part of the transaction, all JetSmarter investors will become investors in Vista Global. Among them is Santa Monica, Calif.-based Clearlake Capital partners, which provided funding to the company in August 2017. A Clearlake representative said the company had no comment on the transaction.