A potential investor has stated an interest in seeking a near half-share in the ownership of Teesside International Airport.

British businessman Michael Flacks is reported to have said he is in talks to acquire a 49-per cent stake in the publicly-owned airport, at Middleton St George, near Darlington, as part of plans for significant investment in the region.

Then known as Durham Tees Valley Airport, it was taken back into public ownership by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, in a £40m acquisition from Peel Holdings, agreed by the six constituent local authorities, in 2019.

Following a public online poll, the “Teesside” reference was restored in a rebranded title of Teesside International Airport.

The Northern Echo: Potential investor Michael Flacks, left, is reported to  be in talks to acquire a  stake in

Mr Houchen, re-elected for a third term as regional Mayor earlier this month, has remained a champion of the airport’s expansion and only recently announced a pledge to add new flights to Malaga and Tenerife.

He was also involved in a recent wrangle, during the run up to the Mayoral election, with a local businessman over the intellectual property rights to the name “Teesside Airport”.

While acknowledging approaches over the years from speculators seeking to buy the airport outright, or at least a share in it, Mr Houchen stated on social media on Friday that it was his preference not to sell.

But, he said he was interested in hearing what the people of the Tees Valley area think about the issue.

News of the potential investment from The Flacks Group was reported in today’s (Saturday May 18) Financial Times.

Mr Flacks, described as “a Manchester-born dealmaker focused on corporate turnarounds”, is reported to have said he was in discussions about buying a minority share in the airport.

The Northern Echo: Michael Flacks' company, The Flacks Group, is reported to be interested in buying a share in

He said he would plan further investment to create a cargo, repair and maintenance hub.

The proposed deal was said to value the airport at £40m, the price paid by the Teesside and Darlington local authorities in 2019.

Mr Flacks told the FT: “It ticks all the boxes.

“It’s a long-term, significant investment.”

Mr Flacks said the deal, which he hopes to conclude by late August, would make sense for local taxpayers.

He said: “They’ve been losing money for years,” and stated he wanted to make it “profitable”.

But he said: “The way to make it profitable is do differently to what they’re doing.

“It’s not that they’re not doing a good job but running a passenger airport is a hopeless exercise.”

In a video posted on his Facebook site on Friday, Mr Houchen, while not mentioning specifically interest from the Flacks Group, said: “Periodically, over the last couple of years, we’ve been approached by people speculating or registering an interest in potentially buying our airport."

He said this was, "great news, from the point of view of how successful it shows private investors can see this airport is getting better and they can see at some point in the future is going to make money."

But he stated: “From my point of view, and I’ve been very clear on this, I don’t think we should ever be selling our airport.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Houchen said past interest has come from the Middle East and the US but he remains of the view the airport should not be sold.

He added, however, that he was interested in hearing the views of the people of the Tees Valley.

In a statement, Mr Houchen described such outside interest as, “a massive vote of confidence”, adding that his team has shown a duty of diligence in assessing all proposals put forward.

“I have always been clear that the public should own Teesside Airport.

“That is the mandate I have and that is how things should remain.

“Everyone knows what Teesside Airport means to me, but more importantly what it means to the people who own it, the people of Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool.

“That’s why I want to keep everyone as up to date as I can with how we’re getting on!

“The interest we’re getting from investors shows me that the ten-year plan we’ve got in place is the right one and that we should stick to it.

“So, I want to be absolutely clear.

“The airport is not for sale.”

He added: “Now, back to work. I haven’t forgotten I’ve got those new flights to Malaga and Tenerife to deliver.”

Under the potential deal, outlined by Mr Flacks in his FT interview, he would have operational control of the airport while the local councils, which would then still own the remaining 51-per cent, would continue as, “a silent partner”.

Should the arrangement prove successful he said he would increase his investment in the airport to build new facilities, such as hangars.

But he said he would only aim to slightly increase annual passenger traffic.

The Northern Echo:

“My offer isn’t just about buying it, it’s about developing it for further use.”

The 1983-founded Flacks Group, which previously acquired a small airfield near Berlin, is reported to have more than $4bn of assets, and Mr Flacks’ own wealth is put at more than £1.2bn, according to the Sunday Times rich list.

He recently acquired a 500-acre site next to the airport which previously housed a plant owned by the chemicals group Elementis.

See more Tees Valley news from The Northern Echo, by clicking here

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Mr Flacks said he is planning significant investments to target renewable energy production and battery storage among other areas.

He added: “It’s a forgotten part of Britain that’s about to explode in the next few years.

“It’s surfacing as a major renewable energy centre.”