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Valdez businessman offers $2.1 million to buy state jet

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ANCHORAGE - The infamous, state-owned jet that Alaska can't seem to sell could be off the market as soon as this week if an offer put forth by a Valdez businessman pans out.

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Former Texan Larry Reynolds is offering $2.1 million for the jet - $500,000 less than what former Gov. Frank Murkowski paid for it - and the deal could be closed as early as Wednesday, he said.

"For the age and model of the aircraft, this is the best price we think we can get," said Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Gov. Sarah Palin.

The state makes quarterly payments on the jet of about $62,500, with much of that money going toward interest, she said.

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Murkowski bought the jet in 2005 despite vehement objections from the Legislature, saying he planned to buy the jet no matter what legislators thought.

Political opponents attacked the purchase as a symbol of his arrogance and stubbornness during his re-election bid last year.

After Palin defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary election, she vowed to sell the jet.

The first plan was to sell the 20-plus-year-old Westwind II on eBay, but it wasn't able to attract a sufficient bid there, so the state hired aircraft broker Turbo North Aviation.

Turbo North owner Robert Heckmann said the deal with Reynolds hadn't closed by Friday, so it wasn't a sure thing.

"We have a contract from Turbo North Aviation with Mr. Reynolds, but there's been no hard money put up," Heckmann said.

But Reynolds said Monday that he thought the deal was as good as done.



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