The Arizona Supreme Court has been asked to overturn two lower court rulings that allow The Netherlands to pursue a nearly $7.6 million judgment against a Mesa-based aerospace company whose corporate history traces back to billionaire Howard Hughes in the late 1940s. On April 17, attorneys for MD Helicopters petitioned the state’s high court to review of a 2012 judgment ordered by The Hague against the company in favor of The Netherlands for 5.9 million euros, or $7.58 million U.S. dollars. The Netherlands is commonly referred to as Holland. At nearly 16,000 square-miles, the country is slightly more than one-tenth the size of Arizona.
MD Helicopters Inc. manufactures high-performance helicopters for government customers such as Afghanistan, Argentina, Japan, and Turkey. The company has its roots in Hughes Helicopters, a unit of Hughes Aircraft started in 1947 that has been the subject of numerous corporate sales and mergers over the decades. The Hague judgment stems from a nearly 20-year contract dispute related to an order The Netherlands placed with a subsidiary of MD Helicopters in 2001 for eight twin-engine helicopters for its National Police Services. After numerous delays and amended contracts, the contract hadn’t been fulfilled by March 2005, leading to legal actions by both parties.
MD Helicopters, Inc. (formerly McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems) is an American aerospace manufacturer. It produces light utility helicopters for commercial and military use. The company was a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft until 1984, when Hughes Helicopters, Inc. was sold to McDonnell Douglas by Summa Corporation and renamed it McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. McDonnell Douglas paid $470 million for the company and made it a subsidiary with the name McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. On August 1, 1997, McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, but Boeing’s plans to sell the civilian helicopter line to Bell Helicopter in 1998 were thwarted by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In 1999, Boeing completed the sale of the civilian line of helicopters to MD Helicopter Holdings Inc., an indirect subsidiary of the Dutch company, RDM Holding Inc. Boeing maintained the AH-64 line of helicopters and rights to the NOTAR system. After suffering dismal commercial performance, the company was purchased in 2005 by Patriarch Partners, LLC, an investment fund. The company was recapitalized as an independent company, MD Helicopters, Inc. MD Helicopters is based in Mesa, Arizona. Lynn Tilton, the Chief Executive Officer and sole principal of Patriarch Partners, was CEO of MD Helocopters until she relinquished control in March 2020 following bankruptcy court rulings related to Patriarch holdings.