Niall Olver leaves ExecuJet after 22 years


Niall Olver leaving ExecuJet for Grob

Niall Olver left IBM to join ExecuJet as managing director in 1993. At that time it was a small company offering business jet maintenance at Johannesburg’s Lanseria Airport. The company he has sold to Luxaviation operates in 17 countries with 1000 employees and 165 aircraft under management.

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Olver moved into a chairman role– with Gerrit Basson, becoming president of ExecuJet – in July 2014 in preparation for a sale. Dermot Desmond, one of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs, had bought the business in 2008 and had not planned to become a long term owner.

Although Olver has agreed to stay on as an adviser, he has stepped down as chairman and the acquisition by Luxaviation ends his 22 years at ExecuJet. “Niall speaks so fast, that he doesn’t need to be around fulltime,” jokes Patrick Hansen, CEO of Luxaviaton.

One thing Olver will not do is launch against the company he is leaving. “Whatever I do, I am not going to compete with ExecuJet,” says Olver. “I spent 20 years building ExecuJet , I am not going to compete with it.”

“I spent 20 years building ExecuJet , I am not going to compete with it.”

Olver, a true entrepreneur, has had several businesses outside ExecuJet and he plans to spend some time growing these. One other project that he is excited about is re-launching the Grob SPn, a six person passenger jet that could land on unmade runways. Olver was CEO of Grob Aerospace when the company was forced to file for insolvency in 2008 (a role he combined with running ExecuJet).

“At the same time as the ExecuJet sale we have had real interest from the programme from serious strategic investors,” says Olver, “these are the sort of backers the project would need and there is a gap for this aircraft even with the PC-24.”

At ExecuJet Olver spent a lot of time looking for ways of simplifying the process of owning a jet and this is something he is also looking at again. With ExecuJet’s Simplifly programme he wanted to give owners the option of having a managed aircraft on an operating lease that they could return at the end of the lease. By combing the lease with an operator the financier could reduce asset risk. Simplifly struggled to compete with private banks. But Olver is now wondering if he could offer the product with mid-sized and smaller jets.

Industry friends of Olver say are looking forward to seeing what he does next. “You just have to meet Niall to understand how ExecuJet grew into such a large international company. He just has so much energy,” says Aoife O’Sullivan, head of aircraft finance at law firm Kennedy’s.

“I guess it is the end of an era for me, but I don’t feel a sense of loss ” says Olver. “I am excited about the next step.”