Niki Lauda, the company's founder, will retake ownership of Niki (HG, Vienna) after a surprising decision by the airline's creditors committee on January 23, Kurier reported.

The Austrian-appointed administrator Ulla Reisch together with her German counterpart Lucas Flöther announced the decision in a joint statement, overturning the takeover deal signed between the airberlin group bankruptcy administrators and IAG International Airlines Group at the end of December.

"From a transparent bidding process, LaudaMotion GmbH emerged today as the best bidder. The Austrian Creditors' Committee has unanimously voted in favour of the offer of Laudamotion GmbH, which is assuming a short-term insolvency approval of the transaction in Austria and Germany," the committee said in a statement sent to the Austrian Press Agency.

While the value of the transaction has not been disclosed yet, Lauda has stated earlier that he is ready to pay a similar sum as IAG, which had offered EUR20 million for the airline (USD24.5 million) and pledged EUR16.5 million in liquidity.

Niki Lauda submitted a joint bid in a consortium with Thomas Cook Group and Condor. He promised to offer jobs to all Niki employees, numbering around 1000, and to resume the operations of the airline in March. While he has not detailed the business model yet, it is expected that Niki will now focus primarily on the leisure market.

The takeover of some assets by IAG was approved at the end of 2017 by the German administrators of the insolvent airberlin group, but the deal was subsequently suspended by a Berlin regional court's decision to relocate the bankruptcy proceedings to Austria. Ryanair also placed a bid for Niki after the move of the proceedings.

The holding intended to turn Niki into an independent, Austrian-based unit of its low-cost subsidiary Vueling Airlines. The IAG takeover was to include fifteen A320 Family aircraft, landing slots at Vienna, Munich, Düsseldorf Int'l, Palma de Mallorca, and other airports, as well as most of the staff. Willie Walsh, IAG's CEO promised the growth of the carrier to a minimum of thirty aircraft and also hinted at the launch of LEVEL long-haul low-cost operations out of Vienna in an interview with Die Presse.

Walsh had also declared earlier that if his bid for Niki falls through, he will seek to develop Vueling's presence in Austria independently. IAG had already spent around EUR3 million in relation to the Niki takeover, mostly on staff salaries since the end of December, and is now likely to seek reimbursement.

Niki Lauda has repetitively criticised IAG's bid and the German-led bankruptcy proceedings of Niki, warning that they will lead to the loss of the Austrian character of the airline. The Austrian Air Berlin subsidiary has been grounded since December 14.