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NetJets Founder Launches New Venture

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

06 August 2010

A year after his departure as Netjets Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard Santulli has announced that he is to undertake a new venture, Milestone Aviation Group, which is to be the first global finance company focused exclusively on the helicopter and private jet markets.

On August 4 the firm announced it had secured equity capital commitments of USD500m from a team of investors led by US middle-market private equity firm The Jordan Company, in partnership with Nautic Partners.

The launch marks the return of Richard Santulli to the aviation industry. Milestone is the culmination of Santulli’s nearly 40 years of experience in helicopters, private jets and finance. Santulli is best known for his work in the fractional jet ownership industry and growing NetJets, a company he founded, into a successful multinational corporation and one of the world’s premier brands. Prior to starting NetJets, he founded and grew RTS Helicopters to become the world’s largest helicopter lessor, and ran equipment leasing for Goldman Sachs. Santulli serves as Chairman of Milestone’s Board of Directors.

“Milestone brings together my experience in helicopters, private jets and finance to address an important and underserved market niche,” said Santulli. “Starting a new business when I see a marketplace opportunity is what I love to do. Today, many good helicopter operators worldwide cannot get access to capital despite a demand for their services. At Milestone, we believe the quality of an operator should be defined by more than just its balance sheet.”

“No one knows this industry better than Richard Santulli and the Milestone team,” said John Jordan, Chairman and Managing Principal of The Jordan Company. “We couldn’t imagine a more highly qualified partner for this deeply compelling market opportunity. In the future, I suspect that people will point to Milestone as yet another example of this management team’s visionary leadership.”

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Milestone is to provide aircraft owners and operators worldwide with personalized financing options not otherwise available.

According to the company, Milestone is to offer 100% financing on new, pre-owned and sale-leaseback transactions. According to the company's plans, customers will select their own aircraft and, following a credit review process lasting 3-5 days, Milestone would then purchase the aircraft and enter into a lease agreement with the customer. Under this system, customers would operate the leased aircraft and cover all operating costs without bearing residual risk.

Commenting, William Kelly, Milestone’s Chief Executive Officer who most recently was the CEO of NetJets Europe, said: “Our entire management team has experience in running an aviation company, which helps us uniquely understand our customers’ needs. We believe it is important to look beyond a company’s capital structure into the hangar and cockpit to evaluate the true quality of an operator.”

TAGS: aviation

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