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AeroVanti founder resigns CEO, chairman positions

New CEO Scott Hopes says the troubled private air service company has received a $2 million loan to help stabilize the business.

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  • | 7:00 p.m. July 25, 2023
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Patrick Britton-Harr's company AeroVanti is being accused of various levels of wrongdoing.
Patrick Britton-Harr's company AeroVanti is being accused of various levels of wrongdoing.
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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After months of escalating turbulence, the founder and CEO of AeroVanti, a private air service company with a partial headquarters in Sarasota, is out. 

Patrick Britton-Harr has resigned as CEO and as chairman of the company’s board, a company official confirmed Tuesday. Britton-Harr remains on the board of directors, for now, but it is unclear if he is still being paid.

The company, with a membership model that costs up to $150,000 a year, has been inundated with reports that members are out hundreds of thousands of dollars and its fleet has been grounded and its planes repossessed. A handful of lawsuits have been filed against the company, and the Federal Aviation Administration has been looking into the company.

Britton-Harr, a Business Observer 40 Under 40 winner in 2022 who founded the company in 2021 and made himself the face of it, is also being investigated in a civil case by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged medicare fraud at another company he owns. Britton-Harr didn’t respond to text messages from the Business Observer sent on Monday and Tuesday for comment.

Britton-Harr's departure comes in the wake of the company's new CEO, Scott Hopes, answering questions about the company's future on a closed Facebook forum for disgruntled AeroVanti members. “What is needed is far more than a course correction!” Hopes posted in one comment, acknowledging the deep issues. 

A former Manatee County administrator, Hopes took over the company July 25 — more than a month after an AeroVanti press release announced his hiring. 

Former Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes officially assumed his role as CEO of AeroVanti on July 25.
Photo by Ian Swaby

In an interview with the Business Observer on Tuesday, Hopes says he’s open to doing whatever it takes to repair relationships with members and that AeroVanti is working to establish alliances with airline charter companies so members can use their flight credits while the issues with the company are sorted out. There’s also been talks about transferring flight credits to equity, he says. 

Members have been accruing flight credits, which accumulate through paying dues, without being able to use them due to reports of repossessed planes and canceled flights. 

Hopes says a $2 million loan was deposited Friday, July 21, from a Tampa Bay investor to bring the company’s more than 20 employees back to work, which, he says, will happen in waves over the next 10 days. This week, core maintenance personnel came back. Dispatchers and schedulers are expected to resume operations five days before planes are back in service, with customer service representatives coming back early next week. Hopes declined to provide the name of the investor.  

The company, he says, expects to have some of its 11 planes operational in 10 days — an issue that’s been impacting the business for several months.

“There’s nothing that’s off the table with trying to satisfy members,” Hopes says. “Most are willing to ride it out with the hope and expectation that they’ll be able to use their credits.” 

Hopes says in a Facebook post that AeroVanti will host a member update to address questions on Friday, July 28.

But as AeroVanti looks to regain its footing, significant issues remain. 

The company, headquartered in both Annapolis, Maryland, and Sarasota, faces several state and federal lawsuits claiming it sold $150,000 memberships for planes that had been repossessed and allegations that its fleet had been grounded. This while it continued to pour money into sponsorships of pro sports teams and other markets.

The company claims to have exclusive partnerships with the University of Maryland, University of Central Florida, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Cubs, Spire Motorsports and U.S. Sailing. It acquired Arizona-based Marjet Aviation in March 2022. As part of its continued growth, the company unveiled the AeroVanti Yacht Club earlier this year.

Since its inception, AeroVanti has boasted of big wins in securing financing, including a $100 million investment in 2021 and a $9.75 million Series A funding round last year. 

But the veracity of those investments has been questioned in the lawsuits, with a Fort Lauderdale civil attorney suing the company on behalf of two clients saying the company’s actions have the “hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme." 

This story was updated to reflect the type of fraud U.S. Department of Justice is investigating against Patrick Britton-Harr.


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