According to Town of Ulster officials, ownership of the Kingston-Ulster Airport has transferred to an investment group led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Supervisor James E. Quigley, III said he made the determination that the people behind Kingston-Ulster Aviation were associated with the former Google executive’s family office Hillspire LLC.
“Looking at the email addresses that every one that contacted me had, they all tracked back to Eric Schmidt’s personal family office corporation,” Quigley said. “I have not spoken to him.”
Schmidt served as CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, executive chairman from 2011 to 2015, and executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. from 2015 to 2017. He was a technical advisor at Alphabet from 2017 to 2020. As of May 8, 2021, Schmidt was ranked the 70th richest person in the world by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with an estimated net worth of $24.3 billion.
The previous owner of the airport was the family of late Besicorp founder Michael Zinn, who died in October 19, 2005 when the Cessna 337 he was piloting crashed into a home in Port St. Lucie, Florida; the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) later concluded that the accident was caused by an error by an air-traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who failed to alert Zinn of a sudden thunderstorm in the area.
Last week Quigley said that Ulster Building Inspector Warren Tutt had been in constant contact with people from Kingston-Ulster Aviation and was optimistic they were going to go through proper channels to make improvements and upgrades.
“Prior management usually did something and ask for forgiveness, or they waited until the last minute to ask the town for an endorsement for a grant from the FAA,” Quigley said, adding that some of the outstanding issues stem from a helipad at the airport constucted in 2018. “Basically I’m looking for increased relationships between the operator and the town and by all indications they have moved in that direction. They’re in front of the Planning Board now to cure some of the issues from the past where they did something and they asked for permission afterwards. We’re moving forward in a better position.”
Quigley said that the investment group’s overall plans for the Kingston-Ulster Airport are still unclear.
“I’d be interested in hearing it, but they have not had a conversation with us yet as to what their plans are, or as to whether it’s going to be status quo or some type of improvement program,” he said. “We don’t know.”
The supervisor added that he expected more details to be revealed in the coming months.
Schmidt owns a local property, the Astor Estate at 189 River Road in Rhinebeck, which he purchased for $9.4 million in January 2016.
Tutt could not be reached for comment.