Wednesday, October 9, 2011

With a recent infusion of capital and a new CEO, RLC is taking its business model to new heights.

(formerly Rotocraft Leasing Company)
Annual revenues:
$65 million-$75 million
No. of employees: 300+
430 North Eola Road,

Already the largest privately held helicopter company in the Gulf of Mexico, Broussard-based RLC has just taken several strategic steps to propel it to new heights. First, it has a new CEO in veteran industry executive Dru Milke, and in September announced that it had received a capital infusion from Boston-based Sankaty Advisors estimated to be in the $100 million range.

Just as it was releasing that news, the company formerly known as Rotorcraft Leasing Company unveiled a fresh corporate brand identity including a new logo, tagline and redesigned website. The company founded in 1990 is now simply known as RLC.

“We have a very customer-oriented attitude, because we understand if our customers are successful, then we’ll be successful,” says Milke. “There are so many times when we’re an integral part of the customer’s business and help him achieve his goals and make him successful.”

RLC transports personnel and equipment to offshore production platforms and drilling rigs, serving high-performance energy service providers and oil and gas producers through its base offices in Louisiana (four), Texas, Alabama and California.

“We want to do it safely, reliably and on time,” says Milke, who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from UL Lafayette. The company has the record to back its commitment, as the Helicopter Association International bestowed the 2010 Operator Safety Award upon RLC for clocking in more than 72,000 accident-free flight hours.

As a mid-sized player, RLC can more easily adapt to market conditions, is flexible, efficient and — most important — in tune with its customers’ business goals, Milke says. Taking RLC public isn’t in the cards anytime soon, he maintains, in part because the public markets are somewhat turbulent.

“I think that gives us an advantage as far as being nimble, being able to react and being able to address customers’ needs and concerns very quickly versus a larger, more bureaucratic organization,” Milke adds.

In September RLC announced that it had secured a strategic investment from Sankaty Advisors. The credit affiliate of Bain Capital, Sankaty Advisors is one of the nation’s leading private managers of fixed income and credit instruments. It has approximately $18 billion assets under management and invests in a wide variety of securities and investments. Terms of the private transaction were not publicly disclosed, but industry sources estimate the investment to be in the range of $100 million.

“This investment reflects our strong confidence in the RLC team and business,” Brett L’Esperance, executive vice president at Sankaty Advisors said in announcing the funding. “RLC has earned a position as the largest privately held helicopter services company in the Gulf, and the team has distinguished itself through a passionate commitment to helping customers achieve their goals through exceptional service. We believe RLC is well positioned to attain the next level of customer value and market leadership.”

Although Milke commends the employees’ work ethic — the company now has a staff of more than 300 — and the RLC business model, which generates $65 million to $70 million in gross revenues annually, he contends there is always room for improvement.

“[We] spend a lot of time looking at what we do well and what are the things we need to improve,” says Milke. “As a team, we develop processes to meet any deficiencies and capitalize on any positives, because there are a lot of positives [at RLC]. We will seek to further expand our footprint in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Milke says for the long-term, the company will look at other opportunities for utilizing its core set of values and knowledge base. “Whether we do that at other oil and gas operating locations around the world or whether we do that in other industries, providing services outside the oilfield, we are going to look at a number of things as far as how we grow the company going forward.”

Milke most recently was chief financial officer at Moreno Group and before that worked for almost 20 years at Air Logistics’ parent company, Offshore Logistics, playing a role in the company’s growth from $60 million per year in revenues to $700 million. He has domestic and international managerial experience from Offshore Logistics, having served as the Western Hemisphere operations vice president, the CFO and eventually Air Logistics’ president. Along with hiring Milke, RLC beefed up its management team by promoting Larry Adams to chief operating officer and Michael Guidry to vice president of operations.

Milke says RLC’s primary competitors are PHI Inc., Era and Bristow (formerly Air Logistics). The veteran industry executive, whose mahogany-paneled office’s walls display his son’s U.S. Navy jersey proudly, says he looks forward to renewing those old business relationships. “I’ve been out of the industry for about five years and after being in it for more than 20 years, it’s sort of your first love,” says Milke. “I’ve built a lot of relationships. Now, it is about renewing and updating those.”

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