Jet Edge CEO Bill Papariella knew from a very young age that his future lay in Los Angeles. “I knew I was going to do movies when I was ten, and move to LA,” he recalls.
While his career trajectory would indeed take him from his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to LA, his greatest success would be in an industry other than film.
In six years’ time, Papariella has propelled Jet Edge International, the private aviation firm he co-founded, from a modest, four-plane operation to an award-winning, top-tier company that manages a fleet of more than 60 private jets for an elite group of wealthy individual and Fortune 500 corporate jet aircraft owners.
Papariella is the go-to guy for buying and selling aircraft in the United States and owners seeking a top-rated platform to operate their asset. “We put a significant amount of capital into our operational platform year over year in order to deliver a best in class experience for our aircraft owners and soon to be aircraft owners,” he says.
It [the 2008 recession] proved a theory to me: if you call enough people, there’s still a lot of wealth out there
Papariella attended Essex Community College on a baseball scholarship, transferring to Ohio University and earning a degree in the mid ’90s. Post college his primary focus was to become a movie producer.
He moved to Hollywood and, while working two jobs—Old Spaghetti Factory during the day and Jerry’s Famous Deli at night— scoured the Hollywood Film Directory, contacting every agent, producer, and/or director listed who might help him secure placement at a large agency or production company.
Howard Baldwin of Baldwin Cohen Productions—the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins—gave him a shot. Papariella progressed from unpaid intern to senior VP of production.
“It was the greatest job of all time,” he enthuses. “[I was] in my 20’s, packaging movies, selling scripts, traveling set to set, and meeting A-list talent,” he recalls. But after several years of working with Baldwin, Papariella decided to leave to do his own thing. He learned a humbling lesson when the phones stopped ringing very quickly upon his departure.
Papariella soon launched StoryBay.com, with $4M in funding from his current partner Richard Bard. An educational and consulting firm designed to help new writers surmount the challenges of breaking into Hollywood, StoryBay.com offered to have scripts read by mid-level managers and creative executives on behalf of overwhelmed studios executives. Though an initial success, StoryBay.com was met with union resistance and went out of business within four years.
Up in the Air
Around this time, Papariella received an intriguing job offer from Kenny Dichter at Marquis Jet. He initially declined but reconsidered, joining the Marquis Jet team in June 2008.
Papariella quickly emerged as a top salesperson. Far from an expert in the relatively new technologies used in jets, Papariella studied up so he could effectively sell the experience. He especially appreciates what he learned from Marquis Jet’s phenomenal sales infrastructure.
Despite the effects of the recession, Papariella recalls 2008 as the best year of his life. “It proved a theory for me: If you truly hustle and call enough people, there’s still a lot of wealth out there,” he says.
Two years later, NetJets purchased Marquis Jet and Dichter was out as CEO. Papariella decided to resign and began looking at various companies to purchase.
In August 2011, Papariella and Bard purchased Jet Edge International. At that time, the company operated four aircraft and was losing $1M annually. Utilizing his existing contacts to hire some of the best executives in the businessand capitalizing on the weaker aircraft firms in Van Nuys who couldn’t stay solvent during the recession, Papariella was able to generate a formidable fleet.
The company reached profitability by September 2012. Today, Jet Edge International operates one of the largest fully managed heavy jet fleets in the world, with 60 plus aircraft. This includes super mid-sized planes (9-10 passengers) as well as ultra-long range and large-cabin (13-15 passengers).
We’re winning right now because we provide a best of the best operating platform, but we’re still entrepreneurial … our sleeves are always rolled up. I’m proud of that. It’s been our calling card.
Winning the Private Aviation Game
Papariella counts 20 billionaires on the Forbes list as clients. “We’re winning right now because we provide a best of the best operating platform, but we’re still entrepreneurial … our sleeves are always rolled up,” he says. “I’m proud of that. It’s been our calling card.”
In Papariella’s eyes, private jet ownership is the closest you can get to a time machine. “We’re selling an experience here,” he says. Flying privately rather than commercially saves time, which is of great value to the firm’s clientele, and ownership rather than charter can also be very financially beneficial.
Papariella plans to scale and refine the company into the elite provider of aircraft management in the industry. He envisions continued but responsible growth as he nurtures an increasingly diverse fleet for Jet Edge International, which will allow him to attract top talent as well as provide jet owners with cost savings and customer service while staying abreast of digital innovations.
But first and foremost, Papariella eyes an expansion in the skies. “My three-year goal for this company is to get to 100 planes managed by 2020 worldwide. With the amount of expense reduction we can produce at scale everyone wins,” he says.