Oliver Stone, Colibri Aircraft
Born and raised in Dallas, Oliver Stone, founder of Colibri Aircraft now sells business jets, from an office overlooking the unmistakable silhouette of the Gherkin in London’s financial district.
A Discovery Channel documentary about airlines changed Oliver Stone’s life.
Until he watched it at college, he had planned on becoming an airline pilot. But when he learnt that airline pilots spend half of their working lives away from home, it put him off the idea. A friend said that he should think about becoming an aircraft broker and he has never looked back since.
He started out at a large US broker in Texas. Stone spent over 10 years working there before launching Colibri Aircraft, a brokerage
and asset advisory business in the City of London. As well as selling aircraft he regularly advises buyers on aircraft selection, and also consults owners and financial institutions on how to support asset values.
The epiphany in Stone’s career as a broker came when he realised: “I do not sell airplanes. I sell contracts to help people buy and sell airplanes.”
Having weathered the economic downturn, he’s seen transactions – but not values – slowly pick up. Stone also offers regular video guides to the business aviation market on the Colibri Aircraft website.
Why did you decide to move to London?
“There were two reasons. First, The brokerage business in the US is overcrowded and, second, I loved London as a location. There are not many people who buy airplanes that do not come to London at one point.”
How do you see your role?
“As a broker you don’t just sell aircraft; you sell information, you sell services, you sell advice.”
Has the market changed in the last few years?
“In the good times, everyone focused on pushing metal. Now the focus is on getting transactions closed. A transaction is comprised of 200 small parts, each of which has to go right and each of which in its singularity has the ability to destroy a deal.
“It just takes one party to say “no” and any deal is over. Part of my job is to walk buyers and sellers through the minefield of details and keep all parties involved.”
How many aircraft do you sell on a yearly basis?
“On a good year, it’s between 15 and 18. On a bad year it can be as low as two.”
Why do people buy particular aircraft?
“People buy aircraft because they either fall in love with the plane, or they fall in love with the price. People buy aircraft that they remember, and they remember the ones that elicit an emotional response. Emotion is a far stronger motivator than reason.
“An example of this would be someone who buys an airplane because they love the interior but the aircraft has an impending, expensive maintenance check coming. So when people make an emotional connection, they tend to act upon it. That emotional connection can occur either through some physical attribute of the aircraft (a beautiful interior, a state of the art entertainment system, a distinctive paint job, a well optioned galley or high tech interior extras), or, that emotional connection occurs with a price that is perceived as cheap relative to the marketplace.”
What’s the biggest mistake you can make as an aircraft broker?
“Not treating the client or buyer with the respect that their intelligence deserves. Most people who buy aircraft will buy four throughout their lives. If you don’t treat them with respect, then they won’t come back to you.”