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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blade, a short-distance aviation company best known for helicopter rides from airports to city centers, agreed to go public via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) affiliated with KSL Capital Partners.

Why it matters: Blade wants to become the first publicly traded company to offer electric vehicles in the air.

  • It doesn't plan to own electric planes, just like it doesn't own its helicopters, but rather provide the physical and digital infrastructure for manufacturers and pilots — kind of like the core Uber model.
  • One manufacturer it's unlikely to work with, however, is eVTOL developer Joby Aviation, which just struck a deal to buy Uber's air taxi unit.
  • KSL, via its private equity fund, owns Ross Aviation, a fixed-base operator with locations at 14 U.S. airports, including in Westchester, N.Y. Ross isn't formally included in the Blade deal, but the common ownership could help Blade get airport space to build infrastructure for landing helicopters and electric vehicles.

Details: The deal values Blade at $850 million, including a $125 million PIPE investment from an investor group that includes David Geffen and existing investors like Barry Diller. Directors will include former FAA administrator Jane Garvey.

  • Blade had raised around $50 million in VC funding, most recently at a $140 million valuation in 2018, and also secured a PPP loan earlier this year.
  • Once the reverse merger closes, Blade will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol BLDE.

[Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Joby vehicles would appear exclusively on Uber's app. That was not accurate.]

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Varsity Tutors to be valued at $1.7 billion in SPAC deal

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Nerdy, the parent company of online learning platform Varsity Tutors, announced on Friday that it will be acquired by a SPAC called TPG Pace Tech Opportunities at a valuation of $1.7 billion. Axios had previously reported on the deal talks.

Why it matters: This is the first tech SPAC deal affiliated with private equity giant TPG, and comes as more and more legacy investment firms are hopping on the blank check bandwagon.

Updated 9 mins ago - Economy & Business

Student debt getting in the way of millennial homeownership

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millennial homeownership is on the rise — but student loan debt is still keeping millions of members of America's largest generation from owning a home.

Why it matters: Buying a house remains the No. 1 way to build wealth in the U.S.

Updated 9 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.