There are as many different variations in Luxembourg’s multi-layered world of private jets as there are oligarchs who are currently panicking that their 'toys' could be confiscated. Jets owned in their own name, jets held in co-ownership, jets held by a company, timeshare jets operated by a private player or jets owned and operated by a private company are among those that could be targeted.
The marker leader in the grand duchy, Luxaviation operates only five Luxembourg aircraft among the 221 planes and 30 helicopters belonging to its customers registered in 16 countries. But it seems there are at least two aviation business models catering to wealthy businessmen who do not want to waste time in traffic jams or to use regular airline routes.
Global Jet customers from all walks of life
Global Jet, which operates 33 jets on behalf of their owner(s) and enjoyed a turnover of €163m in 2020, is Luxaviation's runner-up. But the two companies are not comparable. Global Jet, owned by the Monegasque Mike Savary (42.30%) and managed by David Antoine (25.20%) appears to operate at least five aircraft linked to Russian interests, including Roman Abramovich's three Falcon 7Xs.
The Russian billionaire, who is said to be close to Vladimir Putin (though he recently denied this when finally being sanctioned be the UK), loves the top of the range Dassault Aviation jet, not only because it can fly from London to Singapore, Paris to Los Angeles and New York to Dubai at cruising speeds of up to mach 0.90 (or 1,100km/h), but also, and above all, because it can land on very short runways, i.e. at London City Airport.
Abramovich is not alone. Aline Morel, wife of French billionaire Philippe Foriel-Destezet (who owns 18% of Adecco and whose wealth is reported to be €3.1bn), also uses Global Jet to operate her Luxembourg-registered jet.
Global Jet, which was headed by former home affairs minister Michel Wolter (CSV) from 2015 to 2019, as reported by Reporter.lu, also operates, for example:
- two planes owned by Credit Suisse,
- two owned by Credit Agricole,
- a Gulfstream G650 for Luxottica founder Leonardo Del Vecchio, who sits on Italy's second largest fortune (€23bn);
- an Embraer Legacy 600 for the two founders of Vente-privée.com, Frenchmen Julien Sorbac and Jacques-Antoine Granjon (who have a joint wealth of €2bn),
- a Bombardier BD-700 Global Express for the three children of Batipart founder Charles Ruggieri;
- a Bombardier BD-700-2A12 Global 7500 of Prince Karim Al-Hussaini, known as "Karim Aga Khan IV", the spiritual leader of the Nizarite Ismailis.
The time-sharing jet
Global Jet’s challenger, Jetfly, with 314 employees including 131 pilots, ended 2020 with a turnover that grew by 15% to €108m. The company’s largest shareholder is Jean-Pierre Millet (with 65% of the shares), the grandson of the creator of the eponymous brand of technical mountain clothing. He has consolidated eight companies into Luxembourg and has based its business model on time-sharing associated with private aviation.
Millet is considered Maltese for the purposes of the register of beneficial owners. His company operates 24 of the 28 aircraft in the fleet on a fly-sharing basis: 17 Pilatus 12 and 8 Pilatus 24 aircraft. In other words, according to the last available price of a P12, $5m in 16 shares. The customer pays one share plus the price of services in return for 35 hours of flight time per year, or €3,200 per hour, according to specialist calculations.
The choice of Pilatus is not random, since clients subscribe for ten years--they can leave without penalty after five years--and at the end of the ten years, the aircraft is sold and the residue of the sale goes into the owners' pockets. The Pilatus still sells at a very good price, even after ten years.
In addition to these 24 aircraft, the company owns and operates three P24 models belonging to:
- the Swiss Frey family, who made their fortune in real estate;
- businessman Jean-François Gobertier, whose fortune is estimated at €450m and grew through his financial interest in retirement homes and other facilities for the elderly;
- German businessman Carsten Koerl, the founder of Sportradar, whose fortune is estimated at $1.2bn by Forbes.
Also among interesting companies with aircraft registrations in Luxembourg is Bernard Van Milders' Flying Group. Six of the 18 planes in its fleet, whose headquarters are in Antwerp, are registered in the grand duchy. One of these is the Falcon 900 Exe, owned by Ronald De Waal, grandson and owner of the clothing brand We, whose fortune is said to be around €600m.
Finally, a series of players operate their own jets, such as the founder of Bitstamp, Nejc Kodric (€61m), as well as Belgian businessman Filip Balcaen (€1.3bn), Maurice Blajman, a local resident and founder of Générale immobilière de Metz, Eric Kleboth, the grandson of Babou's founder, and the two children of CAE Aviation's founder, Bernard Zeler, Julie and Hughes.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.