A few months after Jet Edge raised $60 million in debt and equity, the Van Nuys, California-based charter and management firm is poised to acquire an aircraft dealer as it moves to significantly build on the business of buying and selling aircraft.
The company expects to announce the acquisition shortly, and Jet Edge CEO Bill Papariella said, “that will be a big play for us.” In addition, the company has set aside a separate $50 million line of credit to use for its expansion in the dealer business, which it believes will then help to feed its management business.
Papariella, who formed Jet Edge eight years ago through the acquisition of a smaller firm that had a few Gulfstreams, said since then, “the direction has twisted and turned, but we’ve grown up in a lot of ways and thought it was time to broaden ourselves in different genres and channels in the business.”
Jet Edge plans to leverage the expertise of the firm it is in the final stages of acquiring and build on its own aircraft sales history to serve as a dealer. Papariella outlined plans for a full-service shop that works with a select network of brokers to sell aircraft.
Under this approach, Jet Edge would work with aircraft sellers and OEMs to acquire aircraft, provide all of the necessary services related to making an aircraft saleable, and then turn to the network of brokers to list the aircraft. The brokers would use their own “storefronts” to sell the Jet Edge aircraft. “We are going to purchase the aircraft on behalf of the broker, inventory it, and put it up for sale via a partner broker. Our storefront will be other brokerages' storefronts,” he explained.
In turn, the brokers would be able to encourage potential buyers to use Jet Edge management services. “We believe buying, selling, and dealing airplanes, and partnering with the greater broker-dealer network worldwide, is a great way to grow your fleet organically,” Papariella said.
He believes the market is ripe for a new entrant, noting the difficulties in aircraft dealing. “It is a market that lacked smart capital,” he said. “Most the capital is extraordinarily expensive, but traditionally comes from private individuals…very few companies have access to this kind of capital.”
In addition to its acquisition under way, Jet Edge already has begun discussions with brokerage firms. “We’ve identified our groups,” he said, adding that once the acquisition is finalized, Jet Edge will further detail these plans.
He calls the approach a win-win for Jet Edge and the broker community. “We want to be a resource to the broker community to buy, trade, and sell airplanes by utilizing our operational talents, maintenance talents, and capital. We will be sort of an operational consulting arm and a bank. We believe by doing that there will be a fleet opportunity there,” Papariella said.
This is a strategic approach to growth of its management fleet, he said, adding Jet Edge prefers to bring in new customers, rather than to take away customers from other firms.
While Jet Edge is evolving and building other parts of its business, one area that has not changed is its focus on large-cabin and super-midsize aircraft. Founded with three or four Gulfstreams, the company has built up expertise with those models now managing close to 40 Gulfstreams. It already has laid plans to accept its first G600 into the fleet next year. And, part of the $60 million raised will be dedicated to developing new aircraft management programs and charter programs, many of which will align to the controlled floating fleet of Gulfstreams, the company said.
Jet Edge’s Van Nuys headquarters is well positioned for this business, he said, noting the greater area is home to one of the largest, if not largest, concentrations of Gulfstreams.
But Jet Edge also in recent years has branched to other fleet types, Papariella said, adding, “We’re having good success there.” This includes Bombardier Global, Embraer Legacy, and Dassault Falcon additions. In fact, along with being in line to add the G600, Jet Edge further has a deal in place to add a Global 7500 to its fleet next year.
Jonah Adler, chief revenue officer, added that Jet Edge has maintained a focus on high-end services. “We have grown the platform very specifically to serve high net-worth individuals,” Adler said, adding that this is a very different approach that has attracted the top echelon of business leaders. In fact, among Jet Edge’s clientele are more than two-dozen billionaires.
The capital raised earlier this year also will be used to undertake a major project to move Jet Edge into “the digital age,” Papariella said. “We believe that technology is really key to survival,” he said, adding the company is investing millions into transforming its systems. Papariella expects this transformation to extend over two years with a phased approach. Jet Edge is in the RFP process to evaluate platforms. “We are researching what is doable now and what we can get to better [position us for the future].”
In addition to Van Nuys, Jet Edge operates bases in the Palm Beach, California, and New York areas. But Papariella said the company will manage aircraft worldwide. He also sees significant growth opportunities in the mid-south and southwest regions.
With these expansions, he sees a strengthening of its position in the charter and management business. Currently, Jet Edge manages a fleet of nearly 50 aircraft, and Papariella has a goal of doubling that over the next five years. Its charter business has remained solid, flying 21,924 hours in 2018, the fifth most among business aircraft charter operations in the U.S.