The owner of Sun Country Airlines is exploring taking the company public less than two years after it bought the Minnesota-based air carrier.
Apollo Global Management — the New York-based private-equity firm that bought Sun Country in early 2018 — said it is “keeping its options open,” but declined to offer details about a potential stock offering.
At a Las Vegas aviation summit Tuesday, Sun Country’s Chief Executive Jude Bricker told Skift, an online travel publication, that he has been pitching investors to gauge their interest in the small airline, a relatively unknown brand outside of Minnesota.
“We are small, and we are different,” Bricker told Skift, adding that Sun Country has more work to do before it’s ready to file an initial public offering.
“We just want to be ready for it, if it is open for us,” he told Skift. “If it’s not, we will wait.”
Sun Country, after a request for comment, issued a statement that didn’t directly mention the IPO. “There are several options that our board of directors can take for the next step in our journey as an airline,” it said.
Bricker’s and Apollo’s investor pitch focuses on the airline’s improved efficiencies made through significant cost-cutting measures. Sun Country has undergone a rapid transformation into an ultra-low-cost carrier in the past two years, outsourcing hundreds of airport jobs, getting rid of its first-class cabin and unbundling all of its amenities so passengers only pay for what they want.
Last year, Sun Country reported a net income of $27 million on $616 million in revenue, according to required filings by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s up from net income of $16 million on $518 million in revenue in 2016.
Bricker, a former Allegiant Air executive, was named Sun Country chief executive in 2017. Funds affiliated with Apollo bought the airline in the first quarter of 2018 from local brothers Mitch and Marty Davis, who also own Cambria, producer of natural stone countertops and surfaces.
Sun Country, after nearly 40 years under different owners, has never been publicly listed. It was formed in 1983 by former Twin Cities-based pilots and flight attendants of Braniff International Airways, which closed in 1982. In the 1990s, it was owned by a Milwaukee travel agency but closed during the travel recession that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Some former executives and local investors revived Sun Country in 2003 and then sold it three years later to Minnetonka businessman Tom Petters. He put it into bankruptcy in 2008, separating it from other assets when he was charged with the biggest business fraud in Minnesota history. The Davis brothers of Mankato, whose business holdings include Cambria and Davis Family Dairies, bought it in 2011. They sold it to Apollo Global Management in a deal that closed last year.