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Milwaukee's Midwest Airlines is sold to Republic Airways

Milwaukee's hometown airline is about to get its second new owner in 18 months.

Republic Airways of Indianapolis said Tuesday it would buy Midwest from the Texas investment firm of TPG Capital.

The deal is expected to be finalized in 4-6 weeks. And then Tim Hoeksema, who converted Midwest from a private carrier for Kimberly-Clark employees into the most popular airline in Milwaukee, will retire as the CEO.

Republic's CEO Bryan Bedford will take over that role.

The purchase is not a surprise to many, since Republic lent Midwest $25 million last fall, to keep the firm out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Republic has increased its role in the company since then, adding more jets and financing to Midwest as recently as two weeks ago.

Bedford says Midwest will keep its name. And Republic plans to restore some of the 15 non-stop routes Midwest cut last year, when it reduced service by 40 percent due to a big rise in jet fuel prices.

The new owner plans to keep most of Midwest's 1,600 workers, but many pilots and flight attendants could get pay cuts to match Republic's lower salaries.

Still, pilots' union spokesman Bryan Jandorf said his group was encouraged by Republic's plans to expand Midwest.

Midwest lost $477 million last year and another $25 million through March. Republic, which built itself as a regional carrier for larger airlines, made $85 million a year ago.

It will pay an additional $31 million to acquire Midwest.

Those holding tickets for future Midwest flights can still use them.

And Republic says Midwest's signature onboard chocolate-chip cookies will stay.

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