Former Formula One champion Niki Lauder has secured pole position to buy back the Austrian airline he founded after beating rival bidder and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG).
IAG said it was “disappointed” after losing out in the battle to buy Niki – founded by Mr Lauder in 2003 – from joint administrators in Germany and Austria.
IAG was previously picked to acquire insolvent airline Niki for up to 36.5 million euro (£32.1 million), but the deal fell through after it was ruled that insolvency proceedings had to switch from Austria to Germany.
The move threw open the bidding battle, allowing Mr Lauda’s group Laudamotion to re-enter the fray.
The joint administrators of Niki, which was part of failed airline Air Berlin, said Laudamotion emerged as the “best bidder” in the early hours of the morning.
IAG said it was “disappointed that Niki will not be able to develop and grow stronger as part of the group”.
Niki is one of the last assets to be sold out of the failure of Air Berlin earlier this year.
Mr Lauder, who had sold Niki to Air Berlin in 2011, reportedly told Austrian broadcaster oe24 that he was “delighted” to have won the takeover tussle.
He said: “There’s no doubt that I have always put my heart and soul into Niki.”
He also told the broadcaster he had secured 15 aircraft and planned to bring Niki back into operation by the end of March, according to Reuters.
It is thought all of Niki’s 1,000-strong workforce are set to be kept on after the three-times Formula One world champion reportedly improved his earlier offer.
IAG previously said it would take on around 740 former Niki employees to run the operation as a subsidiary of low-cost carrier Vueling.
Mr Lauda moved into the airline industry in the 1980s as his career in motor racing came to an end.
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