Jet-Lease Billionaire Udvar-Hazy Takes On AIG Hand That Fed Him
Airplane-leasing billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy hates to wait. When the chairman and chief executive officer ofAir Lease Corp. (AL) is ready to take off in his Gulfstream IV jet from Los Angeles’s Van Nuys Airport one August morning, he drives straight up to the plane in his black Volks- wagen Jetta, bounds up the stairway, throws off his suit jacket and hops into the pilot seat.
With barely a pause for his co-pilot to go over the pre- takeoff checklist, the Hungarian-born executive pushes onto the taxiway to start the 41-minute hop to St. George, Utah, where he will attend a board meeting at airline SkyWest Inc. (SKYW)
When air-traffic-control delays make him wait for takeoff, he complains about the fuel he’s burning at a rate of 180 gallons (680 liters) an hour, costing up to $16 per minute.
Udvar-Hazy, 66, has always been a man in a hurry. He pioneered the aircraft leasing industry out of college in the 1970s and then built his company, International Lease Finance Corp., into the world’s largest leasing firm.
Insurance giant American International Group Inc. (AIG) made Udvar-Hazy very rich when it bought ILFC from him and his co- founders for $1.3 billion in 1990. AIG then kept him as CEO. He’s well-known for irreverent stunts, such as pushing the fully clothed CEO of Airbus SAS into a pool.
Ever impatient, Udvar-Hazy retired from AIG in 2010 to start Air Lease, after the insurance company was rescued from failure by the federal government. In April, AIG sued Air Lease for poaching employees, some of whom, it claims, left AIG with confidential client information.
Jets Worth $5.9 Billion
“ALC was able to effectively steal a business,” the complaint says. Udvar-Hazy denies the allegations.
By 2011, Udvar-Hazy had built up sales (AL) to $336.7 million, with net income of $53.2 million. Air Lease owned a fleet of 137 commercial jets and other aircraft valued at $5.9 billion as of June 30, spread across 65 airlines in 37 countries. Udvar-Hazy kicked off the big Farnborough International Airshow outside London in July with a $7.2 billion order for 75 Boeing Co. (BA)737 Maxes.
“He’s on fire — just as much as when he started 40 years ago,” says Jerry Atkin, CEO of SkyWest, as he chauffeurs Udvar- Hazy in his BMW from the St. George airport to SkyWest’s headquarters.
Udvar-Hazy owes the success of his second act both to his formidable reputation and to the airline industry’s rapid growth in emerging markets. While he leases planes to big Western carriers such as Air France-KLM Group (AF), United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) andSouthwest Airlines Co. (LUV), much of his business is with developing nations.