Home Business Business News Luminati has a new partner: billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis

Luminati has a new partner: billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis

Luminati founder and CEO Daniel Preston at an event in Calverton in June 2016. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Luminati Aerospace has a new financial backer.

United Refining Energy Corp. says it is “highly interested” in providing Luminati the financing needed to purchase Riverhead’s vacant land at the Calverton Enterprise Park as per the letter of intent entered into by Luminati and the Town of Riverhead in March.

United Refining Energy Corp. made the announcement in a press release provided to the media by Luminati spokesperson Josh Knoller.

United Refining Energy Corp. “has more than sufficient financial resources to provide the financing necessary,” according to the press release.

United Refining Energy chairman and CEO John Catsimatidis said in a statement: “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. 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.”

Luminati cofounder and CEO Daniel Preston says he will bring the defense aerospace industry back to Calverton, where Grumman Aerospace once manufactured military fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. Preston plans to design and manufacture solar and wind-powered unmanned aircraft capable of perpetual flight.

The future of the deal between Luminati and Riverhead Town was in question after the town, through its special counsel, notified Luminati by a letter dated June 28 that the draft agreement between Luminati and the town must be finalized by July 17 or its letter of intent would be canceled.

Last week, three Riverhead council members — Tim Hubbard, Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy — said they would no longer support the sale of land to Luminati Aerospace. They cited the lack of a negotiated agreement, unanswered questions about Luminati’s financial resources and revelations about a lawsuit brought against Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston in 2009 by his former employer, Atair Aerospace, a company he founded and in which he retained a minority interest.

Hubbard said yesterday he expected there would be a resolution offered at Tuesday’s town board meeting to cancel the letter of intent between the town and Luminati.

But Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said tonight Luminati and the town are still negotiating the draft agreement and he is hopeful Luminati will meet the July 17 deadline. “If not, it will be very close,” he said.

Walter said tonight he does not favor canceling the letter of intent and would not support a resolution to cancel it.

“We have someone of substance looking to do the deal with Luminati,” Walter said. “John Catsimatidis is a major landholder in the town,” he said, referring to United Riverhead Terminal Inc., owner of the petroleum facility in Northville. United Riverhead Terminal Inc. is an affiliate of United Refining Company, which Catsimatidis acquired in 1986.

Catsimatidis, 69, is a Forbes 400 billionaire whose net worth, according to Forbes is an estimated $3.4 billion. He began his career in the grocery business, opening his first store in Manhattan in 1971. A decade later he owned 27 Red Apple grocery stores in Bronx and Manhattan. He continued to expanded his grocery store empire as he branched out into the oil and real estate industries.

Catsimatidis sought the Republican nomination for mayor of New York in 2013, but lost the primary election to Joseph Lhota (who lost in the general election to Bill DiBlasio.)

Walter said tonight he has known about Catsimatidis’ interest in the Luminati deal for “about three weeks.” He said he knew that United Refining Energy Corp. sent a letter this week to Luminati offering to back the aerospace startup’s venture.

Walter said he spoke yesterday with town board members about Catsimatidis’ plans with Luminati. He said he is not sure what the board will do.

“I’m going to be urging the board — we have to be prudent with what happens next week,” Walter said.

Even if the town and Luminati are not able to come to terms on a draft agreement by July 17, as per the town-imposed deadline, Walter said, his goal has been to have a public hearing on Luminati Aerospace as a qualified and eligible sponsor by the end of August.

“I believe we can meet that goal,” the supervisor said.

Hubbard, who has been skeptical and sometimes openly critical of the Luminati deal, could not immediately be reached for comment.