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Catsimatidis firm may back Luminati Aerospace

John Catsimatidis on May 7, 2013.

John Catsimatidis on May 7, 2013. Credit: Charles Eckert

A company owned by billionaire John Catsimatidis has offered conditional financial backing to Luminati Aerospace LLC, the Calverton startup that is negotiating with the Town of Riverhead on a $40 million land deal at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Luminati issued a news release Friday night disclosing that a Catsimatidis-owned company, United Refining Energy Corp., had sent it a letter saying that it is “highly interested” in funding Luminati’s purchase of property at the Executive Park at Calverton from the Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency.

“I have deep roots and interest in aviation, and I am very excited by Luminati’s development plans for the property and the economic development and jobs creation that will result,” Catsimatidis, 68, said in a statement. “UREC has a great deal of interest in this project and looks forward to completing the necessary due diligence and working with Luminati and its CEO Daniel Preston to bring the project to fruition.”

The town has issued a letter of intent to sell the property to Luminati, but it was unclear where the startup would get funding after ties were severed with its early backer, Menlo Park, California-based social networking giant Facebook. Facebook has funded some efforts to propagate internet access in underserved areas and Luminati has worked on solar-electric planes designed to stay aloft indefinitely and transmit internet service to Earth.

United Refining Energy Corp. is a Manhattan investment company that was taken private in 2010 and a sister company to another Catsimatidis company, United Refining, based in Warren, Pennsylvania, which operates a refinery. Catsimatidis, ranked No. 581 on the Forbes 2017 list of the world’s richest people, also has real estate holdings and owns the Gristedes supermarket chain.

J. Nelson Happy, vice chairman of United Refining Energy Corp., said any investment would hinge on the agreement hammered out by Luminati and town officials involving zoning and use of the land.

“If the project is a good project, then we’re in,” he said.

Happy said financial resources would not be an issue.

“John is able to write a check,” he said. “It’s not a lot of money to him. John is a very experienced real estate developer.”

In October 2015, Luminati paid $3.4 million to acquire the 16.3 acre property of Sky-dive Long Island at EPCAL. In April, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter signed a letter of intent to sell to Luminati most of the town’s remaining acreage at EPCAL, a former manufacturing and flight-test site of Grumman Corp.

The town holds 2,900 acres at EPCAL but the precise acreage sold to Luminati would be subject to zoning and environmental rulings.

Happy said Catsimatidis owns several airplanes and is an experienced pilot with 5,000 hours in the air.

“Aviation is one of his passions,” Happy said.

Luminati has installed sophisticated equipment at its EPCAL plant to create light weight composite components that could be used in building aircraft.

Another Catsimatidis company, United Metro Energy Corp., has a facility at EPCAL. That company supplies and delivers heating oil and gasoline in the New York metropolitan area.

Catsimatidis was unsuccessful in his bid to be the New York City Republican mayoral candidate in 2013.

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