Niki Lauda wins NIKI bid to retake ownership of bankrupt carrier

Niki Lauda wins NIKI bid to retake ownership of bankrupt carrier

Niki Lauda wins NIKI bid to retake ownership of bankrupt carrier

Ex-Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda is buying back bankrupt Austrian airline Niki, which he founded 15 years ago before selling his stake in 2011.

The Anglo-Spanish IAG, which had submitted a new bid, said in a short statement on Tuesday that it was "disappointed that NIKI will not be able to develop and grow stronger as part of the Group".

NIKI administrators finalized the deal January 23 after marathon talks, overturning an agreed-upon transaction with International Airlines Group (IAG) and its LCC subsidiary Vueling.

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The Niki airline landed in trouble past year when its parent Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy, prompting bids for parts of both airlines.

Niki filed for insolvency in Berlin last month after Germany's Lufthansa scrapped plans to buy the carrier.

Suffering first- to third-degree burns over his face and hands and having inhaled toxic fumes, Lauda was given last rites but eventually made what doctors deemed a miraculous recovery. Retiring in 1979 to found Lauda Air, he returned to racing in 1982 and won his third title.

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Lauda emerged as the top bidder in a unanimous decision by the Austrian administration committee, according to the statement published by the German administrator Lucas Floether and Austrian liquidator Ulla Reisch. The process of Air Berlin's insolvency was overseen by German courts and it was presumed the country had jurisdiction over Niki as it was an entity of Air Berlin.

IAG had been interested in acquiring Niki, and had announced plans for a subsidiary of its Vueling airline to buy the assets. It didn't give financial details of his offer.

Niki, he said, "has always been my heart and soul".

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"Our information is that all employees will receive a job offer", he said.

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