REACH's next mission

  • on Wednesday, 12 12, 2012. At the REACH hanger at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, Mark Hamons finishes up maintenance, Wednesday Dec. 12, 2012 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Five flat-screen monitors towered above a dispatcher at REACH Air Medical Services in Santa Rosa as she tracked dozens of calls for emergency medical trips throughout the region.

A clock on her desk read "Texas time" and others blinked the hour in the Mountain and Central time zones, a sign of the company's growing role in the business of transporting patients in helicopters and airplanes to distant hospitals.

With its acquisition this month by Bain Capital subsidiary Air Medical Group Holdings, the largest air medical transport company in the world, REACH has become part of a growing empire.

Local executives are hoping the influx of cash from Air Medical Group will enable them to replace aging equipment and upgrade their fleet of aircraft, which they couldn't afford to do under local ownership.

"We got to a point where we believed that to ensure the success of the company in the future, we needed an owner that could provide more resources," said Sean Russell, a 21-year veteran at REACH who was named president after the sale.

Enter Bain Capital, the private equity giant founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Though Romney left the firm about a decade ago, Bain became the focus of a fiery debate during the 2012 campaign.

Supporters pointed to its successful investments, saying Bain helped turn around struggling companies and created jobs. Critics pointed to its failures, depicting it as a corporate raider that got rich by plundering weak companies and slashing jobs.

Bain was a natural suitor when REACH — short for Redwood Empire Air Care Helicopter — began looking for a buyer eight months ago. The Boston investment firm had quickly become the largest player in the air ambulance business, acquiring Air Medical Group Holdings in 2010 for about $1 billion, according to a Dow Jones report.

REACH's board of directors wanted a buyer that would enable the company to improve without sacrificing the level of care it provides, Russell said. While narrowing the field of suitors, REACH executives spoke with representatives from other medical companies bought by Bain and liked what they heard.

"They have very much appreciated that Bain has a strong investment in health care," Russell said. "There were very minimal to no changes on the negative side."

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