Alexandria company sells for $230M

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It began as a home-based business 22 years ago in Cleveland.

Robert L. Wright, a practicing optometrist and African-American entrepreneur, founded a small defense consulting business, but moved the company to Alexandria as it grew, to be closer to the Pentagon.

The company Wright founded, Dimensions International, a defense logistics company based in Alexandria’s Eisenhower Valley, was sold last month to Honeywell Inc. for $230 million.

Wright started Dimensions as a three-person operation in 1985 and grew it to sales last year of $174 million.The information technology and engineering firm currently has about 30 offices and 1,200 employees worldwide, with its headquarters here.

Dimensions provides logistical support for the U.S. military and other U.S. defense agencies around the world. Its Sentel and Flight Explorer subsidiaries are not part of the acquisition and are now stand-alone companies.

Wright stepped down as chairman in March 2003 to make room at the top for his son, Russell T. Wright, who was named chairman and CEO after having been with the company for 14 years.

A company bio said the senior Wright has been active for years with local and regional boards, including previoulsy serving on the boards of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Marymount University, the Northern Virginia Business Roundtable, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership.

The younger Wright will continue to chair Sentel, a $40-million-a-year enterprise, and will also manage Honeywell’s logistics organization, according to a company spokesman.

Dimensions provides logistics support for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard at military facilities in the Middle East and around the world. The acquisition will be integrated into Honeywell Technology Solutions to bolster the company’s field support, equipment pre-positioning, depot maintenance and vehicle repair, Honeywell said in a statement.

“This acquisition will enable us to reach new customers, continue the growth of our defense logistics business and support efforts to reconstitute billions of dollars’ worth of worn military equipment,” said Ed Wheeler, president of Honeywell Defense and Space.

Flight Explorer, the Fairfax-based company which developed software that animated videos of the reconstructed flight patterns of the hijacked airliners on news programs following the 9/11 attacks, will not be sold. Wright continues to be sole owner of the $5.6-million-a-year company.

After the first crash into the World Trade Center twin towers, all 22 employees of Flight Explorer in Fairfax  began sorting through data in an effort to reconstruct the airplane’s route. During the time of the attacks 4,000 planes were in U.S. airspace, but employees quickly pinpointed the paths of the hijacked planes.

Flight Explorer software, using information from the Federal Aviation Administration radar system, allows continuously updated tracking of flights within the United States and Canada from personal computers.

Both Wrights declined requests to be interviewed.

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