New Wheels Up CEO, new Flexjet HQ
Last week was an exciting one for two of the largest operators. Kenn Ricci and his team got to celebrate their new headquarters. Wheels Up got a new CEO.
George Mattson, the new Wheels Up head, plans to be based at the company’s Atlanta Operations Center, rather than the New York City offices. Todd Smith, who has been interim CEO since founder Kenny Dichter stepped down in May, will return to his role of chief financial officer (CFO).
With Delta investing more in Wheels Up (it has already lent $60m before the restructuring programme is agreed upon) it is no surprise that Mattson, a former Goldman Sachs banker, has a strong connection with the airline. He has been on the board of Delta Air Lines since 2012 and knows Delta CEO Ed Bastian well.
“George is an exceptional business leader whose background will be instrumental to the continued success of Wheels Up,” said Bastian. “With new leadership in place, Wheels Up is well-positioned to drive strategic, operational and financial improvements for its customers and stakeholders in the months and years ahead.”
Mattson should understand Wheels Up well. He was on Delta’s board when it agreed to merge with Delta Private Jets in 2019 (in return for a 27% stake). He is also the chair and largest investor in Tropic Ocean Airways, a seaplane operator. Wheels Up invested in Tropic Ocean Airways in March 2022 as part of a partnership agreement.
“George is an exceptional choice to lead the company through this important time. He will serve customers, employees, and stakeholders consistent with the elevated experiences that have always defined Wheels Up,” said Dichter. “I am very enthusiastic about the future of Wheels Up.”
Wheels Up says that Mattson has 25 years of aviation experience – it says that he oversaw transportation and airlines when he was co-head of the Global Industrials Group. Mattson also led two SPACS. One merged with Virgin Orbit, a small satellite launch company, which filed for Chapter 11 this year. The other acquired electric trucking company Xos.
He is due to start working for Wheels Up in early October. His decision to be based in Atlanta is significant. Wheels Up opened the 34,000sqft Member Operations Center earlier this year. It has been led by Dave Holtz, chairman of Operations at Wheels Up, who spent 43 years at Delta.
Flexjet last week opened its $50m stunning new headquarter global operations centre (pictured) in Cleveland. The 51,453sqft it adds brings Flexjet’s Cleveland campus to 243,000sqft.
The star shaped building hosted more than 1,200 guests and even had a static display of all the operator’s aircraft. The senior manufacturers in attendance are also a sign that you can expect at least one order from Flexjet at NBAA BACE.
Inside the star-shaped building, Flexjet has installed the largest seamless LED screen in the US. It is 176ft (53.6m) wide by 19ft high with 1,572 individual panels. Although it would be great for playing video games, the screen displays every Flexjet, Sentient Jet, and FXAir flight around the world in real time.
“If anyone sets foot into the Global Headquarters, they instantly realise how serious we are about building a global company,” says Andrew Collins, co-CEO, Flexjet.
“I was over in Europe when everyone started moving in and I was blown away when I came back. It is beyond expectation. It has injected so much energy into the company,” says Collins. “You can tell, as soon as you walk in, that it has also been designed from a workflow standpoint to absolutely service a customised product set.”
Flexjet now employs more than 4,000 people around the world. Some 670 of them are based in Cleveland. Ricci, its founder, is also passionate about design and architecture. In the control room there is a table made from the fuselage of the first Gulfstream G4. Coincidently, Ricci has flown the aircraft.
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