Corporate Jet Investor – “William Kelly, Milestone Aviation”

Feb 21, 2011 – International Corporate Jet & Helicopter Finance 2011:  William Kelly is Milestone Aviation Group Limited’s chief executive officer. Bill is an executive with a wealth of experience in global companies and brings a proven track record in leading a European private aviation enterprise.

Prior to co-founding Milestone, Bill was the chief executive officer of NetJets Europe, responsible for the largest private aviation company on the European continent. Bill previously spent six years at NetJets Europe in other key organisational roles, including stints as chief operating officer and chief financial officer. As COO, he had accountability for flight operations, aircraft maintenance, scheduling, logistics and owner services. In these roles, he was instrumental in the rapid growth and turn to profitability of NetJets Europe, which owned and operated more than 150 private jets at its peak.

Bill began his career with KPMG in 1989 and is an ACA (member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland) as well as a FCA (Fellow in the Institute). In 1994, he joined Procter & Gamble, working in several finance-related roles around the world in various industry sectors, ultimately achieving the title of chief financial officer of the company’s North America Fine Fragrances Division. He was actively involved in the restructuring of the North American business from a standalone 300-person business to a seven-person distributor model. Prior to arriving at NetJets Europe, Bill also was a senior member of the finance team at a mobile Internet subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom Germany.

Bill obtained his LLB Honours Degree in Law from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.


Flight Global – “Milestone aims to bring financing aid to helicopter and private jet operators”

23 Aug 2010 by Kate Sarsfield – Niche finance company Milestone Aviation is hoping to secure a first customer within the coming weeks to kick off its bid to “democratise the under-served helicopter and private jet markets”.

“Until now small to medium-size operators – particularly in the helicopter industry – could not vie for lucrative contracts because they were unable to raise the necessary finance from banks to buy new aircraft to support it,” says Milestone managing director Robert Dranitzke, a former chief operating officer with NetJets Europe.

He says this problem is particularly acute in the offshore emergency medical services and search and rescue markets. Here, small players are often barred from entry and the big companies “can’t afford to take the next step” to purchase additional helicopters as banks – which have been squeezed by the credit crisis – are no longer willing to lend the money.

Milestone’s senior management team includes other former NetJets executives including Bill Kelly, NetJets Europe and now Milestone chief executive, and Richard Santulli, NetJets founder and now chairman of the Milestone board.

“Starting a new business when I see a marketplace opportunity is what I love to do,” says Santulli. “Today, many good helicopter operators worldwide cannot get access to capital despite a demand for their services. At Milestone, we believe the quality of an operator should be defined by more than just its balance sheet.”

Milestone’s plan is to acquire new aircraft and then lease them to operators. “Utility helicopters like the ones configured for offshore or EMS operations have strong residual values and are an attractive long-term investment for us,” says Dranitzke, who expects the utility helicopter market to account for around 80% of Milestone’s business within five years.

However, he adds: “The risk profile for private jets on the other hand is much greater for Milestone. This market is unstable and the values are always going up and down.

“Therefore we are interested in purchasing [more profitable and secure] nearly new large and super midsize business jets, ideally for public companies, private corporations and high-net-worth individuals and customers looking for an interim solution while they await a future delivery. But we will sell the assets in around three to five years when this market is stable again.”

Dranitzke says Dublin, Ireland-based Milestone has raised enough capital to “compete globally and put us in a position where we do not have to say ‘no’ to a potential deal. Within the next three to 12 months we will tap the debt market with a view to rising around $500-$600 million.”