A Kid From Cleveland

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in South Euclid, a nearby suburb.

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Off to College

Enrolled in the University of Notre Dame, one of my best decisions, and enlisted in its Air Force ROTC program.

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A Dream Fulfilled

Made my first solo flight.

Earned private and commercial pilot license and became a flight instructor; graduated from Notre Dame with an accounting degree.

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Finding My Way

Hired as a flight engineer at Northwest Airlines, furloughed during training. Moved back to Cleveland and began working as a flight instructor.

Hired as an accountant and then as a demo pilot for Mercury Aviation. Founded Professional Flight Crews, hiring pilots for companies with whole aircraft ownership.

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It’s the Aviation Business For Me

Acquired Corporate Wings, an aircraft management and charter company providing charter flight service to corporate clients.

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This is Working

Began acquiring fixed-base operators (FBOs) in Columbus, Rochester, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Austin, allowing Corporate Wings to expand its management business beyond Cleveland.

Marked a milestone of $3 million in annual sales at Corporate Wings.

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In Case Aviation Doesn’t Work Out

Graduated from Cleveland Marshall School of Law.

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Corner Office and Cockpit

Led Corporate Wings as it was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. Personally flew 600-700 hours per year as a pilot of Corporate Wings managed Gulfstream G2 and Citation jets, for the concert tours and political campaigns we booked.

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The Governor of Arkansas Needs a Jet for How Long?

Began flying Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton during his first presidential campaign and served as his pilot until his 1993 inauguration as president.

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Foray Into Fractional

Founded Flight Options with the innovative idea of selling fractional shares of pre-owned aircraft to compete with NetJets, which was selling fractional shares of new aircraft. Led Flight Options to $100 million in sales in its first five months and $300 million in its first 24 months.

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Creating Scale

Arranged the merger of Flight Options, grown to more than 200 aircraft with 1,500 employees and almost 1,000 pilots, with Raytheon Travel Air. The same year, sold Inertial Airline Services to Heico Corp.

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A Reluctant Sale

Marked annual sales of more than $600 million at Flight Options, making it one of the most successful aviation start-ups ever. Sold a majority of Flight Options to Raytheon Travel Air.

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Setting the Stage

Established Directional Aviation Capital, an investment firm focused solely on the private aviation market. Began by orchestrating a co-investment in Mercury Air Group that closed in 2005, a $200 million company operating aircraft support facilities at 24 airports.

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Putting My Thoughts Down

Authored Management by Trust, a business leadership primer that the New York Times Book Review called “a landmark success formula for corporate America.”

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A Strategic Win Clearing an Innovation Path

Sold Mercury Air Group to Macquarie Infrastructure Trust for $615 million.

Founded Nextant Aerospace, the first company specializing in the remanufacturing of business jets.

Founded Constant Aviation, one of the nation’s fastest-growing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) companies, specializing in airframe maintenance, engine repair maintenance, major repairs, avionics, interior refurbishment and modification, parts distribution as well as accessory and composite services.

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Returned to Flight Options as an investor and a member of its board of trustees in 2008. In 2009, reacquired ownership of Flight Options, helping the company return to profitability after the industrywide business jet decline following the 2008 financial crisis and recession.

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High Honor

Received the Harvard Business School’s Dively Entrepreneurship Award.

Also, founded Sojourn Aviation, an independent, global aircraft sales company that offers both buyers and sellers consulting and financing assistance services for the acquisition, brokerage, management and sale of business aircraft.

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A Well-Timed Innovation

Marked the final FAA certification for the Nextant 400XT in October; deliveries of the plane began the same month, including a 40-plane, $150 million order by Flight Options.

Named the youngest-ever recipient of the National Air Transportation Association’s William A. Ong Memorial Award, a lifetime achievement award for extraordinary achievement and extended meritorious service to the general aviation industry.

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The Inventor of The Jet Card Joins Us

Acquired Sentient Jet, a pioneer in jet card private travel services, significantly boosting the revenue hours flown by our companies.

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The Flexjet Era Begins

Acquired Flexjet from Bombardier in September after 18 months of negotiations; placed the largest private aviation order in Flexjet’s history, valued at approximately $5.2 billion, for up to 245 Bombardier business jets.

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Global Range

Placed an order for Flexjet with Gulfstream for up to 50 long-range aircraft including the G450, G650 and G500 business jets.

Purchased N1 Engines in partnership with B&G Aviation to deliver high-quality turbine parts to maximize efficiency and streamline operating costs; the firm provides turbine engines, engine parts, consignments and collaboration.

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Innovation and More Aircraft

Named the most influential person in the business jet market by Corporate Jet Investor, leading its Power List 2015. Received the Aviation Week Laureate Award for pioneering business jet remanufacturing initiatives via Nextant Aerospace.

Launched Flexjet’s Red Label, its premier offering, with innovations including flight crews dedicated to a single aircraft, artisan interiors and access to the world’s youngest fractional jet fleet.

Accepted delivery of Flexjet’s first Gulfstream G450 and launched Flexjet’s fourth new aircraft program in a year, with the Embraer Legacy 450 midsized aircraft.

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On To Europe (and South Bend)

Led Flexjet’s acquisition of Birmingham, United Kingdom-based charter and management company FlairJet from Marshall Aviation, expanding Flexjet’s international presence by enabling operations within Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Enthusiastically joined the board of trustees of my alma mater, The University of Notre Dame, and further satisfied my love for history by being named to the Smithsonian National Board.

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Making Our Mark

With my wife, Pamela, announced a $100 million dollar unrestricted gift to The University of Notre Dame, via a giving and business succession model we developed called a Philanthropic Succession Partnership; this is the single largest unrestricted gift ever committed to the university.

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Eyes on Europe and Opportunity in Pilot Training

Led the acquisition by Directional Aviation of UK-based charter provider PrivateFly which gave us tremendous exposure and insight into the European private jet travel market and acquired Italian-based aircraft management firm Sirio.

Acquired SIMCOM, the largest independent provider of flight simulator-based training services to the global general aviation, business aviation and regional airline markets.

Honored by the Living Legends of Aviation, which renamed their award honoring aviation entrepreneurs as The Kenn Ricci Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award.

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Growing Our Global Footprint

Built the foundation for Flexjet’s global operations with the opening of Flexjet House, a global experience center and office in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, a European Tactical Control Center outside of London and a maintenance facility at Milan Linate Airport in Italy.

Expanded Flexjet’s midsized fleet offering by ordering $1.4 billion of Praetor mid- and super midsized aircraft and Phenom 300 light jets. Selected the super-midsize Praetor 600 to be the core offering of what would become Flexjet’s European-based fleet.

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Leading Through Adversity

Led Flexjet’s industry-first efforts to protect passengers, flight crews and other staff from exposure to COVID-19 through measures including Project Lift, which ferried flight crews on Flexjet aircraft to their assignments, enabling them to avoid commercial airline travel.

Launched FXAIR, which specializes in premium on-demand charter; FXAIR provides clients with the flexibility of traditional charter service while providing a more consistent network of premium aircraft.

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Sustainability and Vertical Lift

Incubated 4AIR, the first emissions reduction solution provider focused solely on helping private aviation participants to offset or reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate-related pollutants.

Announced the acquisition of helicopter charter operator Associated Aircraft Group (AAG) from Lockheed Martin, representing the first vertical lift addition to the Directional Aviation family. This would position Flexjet as the first and only private jet travel provider with an integrated first and last-mile helicopter capability.

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The Future of Flight

As Co-CEO of Zanite Acquisition Corp., successfully combined it with Eve Air Mobility from Embraer to progress eVTOL development by making it a publicly traded company, after shareholders of Zanite Acquisition Corp. approved the merger. This was on the heels of an order we placed in 2021 for 200 of the electric urban air mobility aircraft.

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The Global Powerhouse of Private Aviation

Officially opened Flexjet’s new futuristic global headquarters in Cleveland, OH integrating modern architecture with private aviation’s most advanced Global Operations Control Center enabling seamless real-time support and monitoring of every Flexjet and sister-company flight around the globe.

Leading aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul organizations Constant Aviation and Flying Colours are brought into Flexjet’s already robust in-house maintenance network, creating the most vertically connected maintenance infrastructure in private aviation, providing industry-leading aircraft dispatch availability for Flexjet aircraft Owners.

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In fact, during my first forays into business as the person in charge, I viewed my business responsibilities as the necessary price of admission to the cockpit. If I was able to make the business successful, I’d then be able to create a need for me to perform my duties as a pilot. Be passionate about what you do and compassionate about how you do it. Motivation and drive come more easily when you’re involved with something you find intriguing. For me, it all started with my love of aviation. From the time I began flying in the Air Force, I looked for ways to spend more time in the air, learn more aircraft types and fly to more destinations. When hosting an event, make every guest feel like they’re the guest of honor. My wife Pam and I once hosted a beautiful dinner party for a large number of friends. To ensure we could visit with everyone in attendance, we played a bit of interactive musical chairs, rotating from one table to another throughout the meal. This way, we were able to connect with all of our guests and nobody was left out. Pick up the phone. If you find yourself reflecting on a friend or business acquaintance and happen to have a few minutes to spare, check in and share your thoughts with them. At face value, it might only be an investment of five to ten minutes of your time – but even brief interactions like this have a way of rekindling a working relationship and can pay off in dividends. Attend industry conferences and network with others. Regardless of your industry, keeping abreast of the latest developments and making new contacts face-to-face is invaluable. While it may feel impossible to pull yourself away from the immediate needs of the day-to-day in the office, the investment in attending in-person events can be more beneficial to achieving what you are working towards in the long run. NOTES FOR SUCCESS {{current_slide_index}}   /   {{total_slide_count}}


Another one of our fundamental principles is that employees are the foundation of a service organization. In addition to being treated with courtesy and respect, this also means employees should be kept well informed. I make a point to do exactly that by regularly traveling to various company locations throughout the year. I prepare a thorough presentation ahead of time and use it to update the team with current company news and developments. I then follow it up with an open Q&A, sharing some personal stories and a few laughs.

As each group is informed, they will be better equipped to align their efforts with the direction of the company, and when each group is asked for their input on the current and future direction of the company, they will feel far more valued and will be far more invested in the company than if they were only provided with an occasional email update.

Investment in your people and resources goes a long way in keeping employees happy and motivated, and it also tends to produce a superior product. For example, when it comes to Flexjet’s aircraft operations, we knew from the beginning that quality maintenance support ensures safety and reliability. Operationally, we discovered how keeping that support in-house provides consistency and control that further elevate our levels of service. Ultimately, this philosophy of investing in ourselves, and our people knowing precisely what their role is in ensuring the efficiency of our operation and upholding our brand promise of service excellence has led to an unprecedented competitive advantage at Flexjet.

I always tell our leaders and managers, part of your job is to find people doing something good. A manager who can’t catch people in the act of doing something good is a poor manager because they’re just waiting for people to make a mistake. That’s not management by trust.

©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


In 2019, I welcomed former president George H.W. Bush to the inaugural Flexjet Forum in Manhattan. Our topics of discussion ranged from high-level issues such as the economy to more personal interests like family. I was also fortunate to get to know Bill Clinton when I was one of his pilots during the 1992 presidential campaign. Flying him on the most important night of his life is one of my favorite flying moments.

In each of these examples, I was reminded that while we might be driven by large-scale, high-reaching goals, balance is crucial. Even at the highest levels, one must remain anchored to the most basic tenets of success, such as humility, respect and compassion. The nice thing about qualities like these is that you can give them away all you want and never lose any of your personal stores. They always come back.