Q&A: Ken Cage from Airplane Repo takes back private jets for a living
Ken Cage is a high-end repo man specialising in private jets, luxury boats and cars. Starring in Discovery Channel’s Airplane Repo, he was one of the few people to find big business in the recession.
How did you get into repossessing aircraft?
“I worked a lot in banking, for JP Morgan and later for Chrysler Financial, where I got some experience of repossession and investigation through managing collections. I also handled security for a while.
“I started the International Recovery Group with my business partner [Bob Weeks] in 2005. We looked a number of ideas, but repo seemed to make the most sense. It is such a niche market and there aren’t as many overheads as other businesses.
“As we also run an aircraft brokerage, we are able to combine [Weeks’] sales experience.”
Business aviation suffered in the recession, but has it actually helped your repossession business?
“Yes. Since 2007, we have repossessed around 800 aircraft. I would say 150 to 180 of those were private jets. Since the beginning of 2012, things have settled down, with banks doing what they can to avoid the inevitable or trying to do some of it themselves.
“We’ve had a lot of publicity in the last few years. We’ve had Airplane Repo and I was on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal in 2010, so more people are finding out about us and thinking they can do what we do.”
How do you cope with this new competition?
“There’s a finite number of aircraft and we’re going to have to change. The one thing that makes us unique is that our case rate is about 98 per cent.”
What is the biggest aircraft you have recovered?
“We’ve done GIIIs, GVs, Challengers. I would say the biggest – in terms of size and probably, money – was a [Gulfstream] GV. We’ve also repossessed a near brand new G150 that was worth all of $25-30 million.”
Do you agree that repossession is a last resort?
“I know Nick Popovich says you should do what you can to avoid repossession but I would say that in 95 per cent of cases, it’s not going to work out.”
Where have you had to go to recover aircraft?
“We’ve been to the UAE, Jamaica, Venezuela, Mexico a bunch of times and of course, Europe. Banks don’t want to repo in Asia, because it’s very different legally, but we actually have a new consultant in Asia, who is helping us with repossession work.
“There is going to be a huge general aviation market in China soon and that people means people will be financing new aircraft.”
Are there any places you wouldn’t go to repossess an aircraft?
“No. We’ll go anywhere. The banks don’t want to go to Venezuela anymore than you and I do, but it’s hard to say no to recovering a $22 million asset, when you’re getting paid rather well.”