Meet XOJET CEO Blair LaCorte
by michael ventre
Every XOJET aircraft has free Wi-Fi and satellite phone service, as well as touch screens to control lighting, window shades, and entertainment
|Blair LaCorte relaxes in the plush interior of one of XOJET ’s private jets|
|A Bombardier Challenger 300 aircraft, part of XOJET’s fleet|
Some things in life have stripes, and there is just no use questioning it. They include, but are not limited to, zebras, New York Yankees uniforms, inmates’ clothing from old prison movies, barber poles, and the American flag.
Private jets always had them, too. In fact, you would be more likely to encounter a zebra waving the American flag while watching an old prison movie than a private jet without custom stripes. That is, until Blair LaCorte officially took over as CEO of XOJET earlier this year and asked, “Why stripes?”
Now when you gaze out upon that striped jungle of private jets covering the tarmac at airports across the world and you spot the pristine white one calling to you like the goddess of aviation, you can thank LaCorte for changing the landscape. “We painted [our jets] white so when our passengers see them, they know exactly which jet is theirs,” says the 48-year-old LaCorte, a longtime business executive and senior adviser to TPG, the private-equity giant that owns XOJET.
Going stripeless isn’t so much about aesthetics as it is about the spirit of innovation LaCorte has tried to bring to an industry that—for the most part—is locked into a rigid flight plan. It’s a mind-set the transplanted Easterner developed early, because working as a youngster for Boston Air Taxi demanded it.
There are mom-and-pop aspects of the old television sitcom Wings that reflect LaCorte’s experiences growing up working for his family’s small aviation company in New England. Tinkering with small planes, helicopters, and a blimp helped lay the groundwork for LaCorte’s future private-jet enterprise, although it would take years before he ever landed there. “We rode our bikes to work,” he says of himself and his siblings back in the late 1970s. “I loved it.”
Even as a teenager, LaCorte eschewed the pilot’s life in order to focus on the business-management side. “One of my first projects when I was 16 years old was to put together a maintenance board to figure out which airplanes needed servicing, what hours they would operate, and tracking all that,” he says.
A Slightly Different Flight Plan
But LaCorte bid adieu to aviation shortly after he took off to The University of Maine, from which he graduated summa cum laude before earning an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. That led to a long career in business that looks as though someone combined the résumés of five executives into one. LaCorte has led teams in several start-up efforts in the defense, industry, and technology fields; has held executive strategy and consulting positions; and has been honored with the Technology of the Year award by NASA and recognized as one of the “Top Ten Marketers in the US” by Business Marketing and Adweek.
Before taking over XOJET, LaCorte had a layover in academia, serving as executive fellow at the Glassmeyer/McNamee Center for Digital Strategies at Dartmouth. “I had a great career run,” he says, “but I had always wanted to go back and teach. I kind of retired from business and enjoyed teaching, but I was lured back to TPG. I came back to invest, not to run anything. As it turns out, one of the investments was XOJET.”
Today, LaCorte lives with his wife, Jill, three sons, and a Weimaraner puppy on Marin County’s Belvedere Island, not far from XOJET’s offices in Brisbane and the company’s new 22,000-square-foot operation center in Sacramento. He oversees the largest fleet of owner-operated planes in North America, including sleek Bombardier Challenger 300 and Cessna Citation X aircraft. The company also has offices in New York, San Francisco, and LA, with a Miami headquarters coming soon.
Uncomparable Service in the Sky
Unlike many other companies, XOJET owns its planes, so it takes its boardroom-in-the-sky approach very seriously. The jets offer Wi-Fi, comfortable workspaces, and a décor that suggests an eager creative type met with a staid executive and the two came to a pleasing compromise. (One example: The inside walls are adorned with custom-honed eucalyptus paneling.)
Further catering to the client’s needs, XOJET offers fixed prices for popular flights, as well as custom quotes. New York City to LA, for instance, runs about $19,000 one way. “We started to do things people hadn’t done before,” says LaCorte. “We picked routes we felt were a great value, and we promoted them. We make it easy for you.”
LaCorte is clearly an executive of a different stripe.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JSQUARED PHOTOGRAPHY
LAC celebrates the women of its May/June 2013 issue at Palihouse in West Hollywood.