The Luxembourg-based global investment group Flacks has paid £1m for a neglected German airfield it hopes to transform into an “emergency airport” and cargo hub.
Cottbus Drewitz airfield is 50 miles east of Berlin and, because of its remote location, has no restrictions on round-the-clock landings and take-offs. Used as a training base by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War it then passed to the Russian air force as an East German fighter station throughout the Cold War.
Now the Flacks Group has a ten-year vision of transforming the airfield, until recently used as a military training facility, into an aircraft maintenance and repair centre. It also wants to exploit the land around the edge of the 1,000-acre site and is planning a commercial development comprising industrial and logistics property.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’ve bought it after three years of negotiating with all different levels of the German government,” said company boss Michael Flacks, who explained the deal had come at an interesting time.
“Two of Berlin’s airports will close in the next couple of years as a huge new airport being built at the moment opens. In effect, Cottbus Drewitz will be Berlin’s second airport,” adds the 46-year-old British-born entrepreneur who now lives in Monaco. “There used to be around 40 airports like this in Eastern Germany, but they are all now closed.”
As agricultural land the site has been valued at around £20m. Flack, however, wants to develop it as his company’s first aviation investment. He is already talking to a number of large airlines and companies within the sector who want to use the airport as a European base.
“The potential is exciting and limitless,” added Flack. “This place has no sound restrictions. We have all the planning permissions we need, which is very rare. And we can even remove trees and we can take any size of plane.”
Another suggestion he has made to the German transport authorities is the use of Cottbus Drewitz as an emergency diversion airport. “We are also the only airport in Germany that has 24 hour landing and take-off seven-days-a-week. That’s because it is in the middle of nowhere and near the Polish border,” he said.
The Flacks Group — which employs 200 people across its Luxembourg, London, and Munich and Miami offices— specialises in the acquisition of distressed businesses and commercial premises. The company bought the Accrington Arndale shopping centre in 2012 and also owns a large retail complex and more than 2,000 residential apartments in Berlin. It is currently building 400 homes in Orlando, Florida.
Among its unsuccessful ambitions were the takeover of the retailers What Everyone Wants, and Bonmarche and the purchase of Manchester’s 47-storey Beetham Tower.