Consortium led by US-Brazilian airline founder wins bidding for Portugal flagship carrier TAP

LISBON, Portugal – A Portuguese official says a consortium including the U.S-Brazilian founder of two airlines has won the bidding to buy TAP Portugal, the heavily-indebted national airline.

Treasury Secretary Isabel Castelo Branco announced Thursday that David Neeleman’s Gateway consortium will pay 354 million euros ($397 million) for a 61 per cent stake.

The deal’s value could rise to 488 million euros depending on TAP’s 2015 performance.

Neeleman founded the JetBlue airline in the United States and is the CEO of Brazil’s Azul carrier. He holds U.S.-Brazilian citizenship.

The Gateway consortium includes Portuguese bus company owner Humberto Pedrosa.

The other TAP bidder was German Efromovich, owner of Colombian airline Avianca.

The government was trying to complete the sale soon so TAP can recapitalize and modernize its fleet. Regulators’ consent could take months.