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Bain buying REACH air ambulance service

REACH Medical Holdings, the Santa Rosa-based air ambulance service with operations in California, Oregon and Texas, is being sold to a subsidiary of Mitt Romney's old investment firm, Bain Capital.

Air Medical Holdings Inc., bought by Bain in 2010, is expected to incur $250 million in debt to help fund the purchase, according to a report by Dow Jones.

The transaction has received clearance from anti-trust authorities, according to a notice published this week on the Federal Trade Commission website.

A REACH official, Eric Freed, confirmed Friday that a deal was in the works but would not discuss details until it was final.

"It's not done at this point," said Freed, the company's director of service delivery. "We're in the middle of it."

Rumors of the sale have been swirling around the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, where REACH is based, said Doug Williams, chief of the Rincon Valley and Windsor fire departments. Some speculated that buyers with deep-pockets could invest in new equipment. Others worried the transfer of a family company to absentee owners would result in a loss of "local flavor."

"This is something that started here with people I personally knew," said Williams, a firefighter for 40 years. "It's certainly become an established part of the system."

REACH, which stands for Redwood Empire Air Care Helicopter, was founded in 1987 by Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor John McDonald.

McDonald, who died in an airplane crash in 2000, wanted to extend emergency service to people living in remote areas of the North Coast.

Over 25 years, the company expanded to 12 bases in three states with 260 employees and reported revenue in 2008 of $40 million.

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