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He Clips Wings for a Living

As the economy nose-dived, Ken Cage’s repo company, International Recovery & Remarketing Group, took off.


As the economy nose-dived, Ken Cage’s repo company, International Recovery & Remarketing Group, took off. As told to Marc A. Wonjo.

How’s business? Crazy busy. In 2008 we had close to 500 repos, triple the number in the previous two years combined. And at the current pace, we’ll more than double that in 2009. So far this year, the value of the vehicles repossessed is more than $100 million.

What’s your commission? We repossess planes, boats and RVs. For small planes and boats, we charge about 7% to 8.5% of the property’s value. The percentage decreases as the value of the vehicle increases. So for a $1-million airplane, our commission would be about 5%.

How many people work for you? We have up to 40 pilots on call, plus six boat captains and 18 repo agents located throughout the country. Many of our agents are licensed private investigators. Lately, I’ve hired more pilots because we’re repossessing more jets.

What kinds of owners are losing their planes? About two-thirds of the people are in some way connected to the housing industry -- real estate agents, homebuilders and mort-gage brokers. I just repossessed a nearly new, $14-million Gulfstream jet from a California real estate developer.

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How do you repossess a plane? First, a bank hires us to collect. We work to the point that we’re 90% sure we know where the plane is before we go after it. We don’t make contact with debtors -- if they know we’re coming, they’ll hide the plane. They may realize that a repo is imminent, but they don’t know when. Once we take possession of the plane, we fly it to our facility in Orlando.

How do people react when you repossess a plane? They often know it’s coming and make sure to be somewhere else. It’s tremendously embarrassing. The aircraft industry is a tight-knit group, so people talk.

Do you ever have confrontation with owners? Rarely. We have avoided a lot of potential fights by just talking matter-of-factly to people. You don’t have to be a jerk. Sometimes you have to be a bit more aggressive, but in 99% of my cases, I just look people in the eye and explain to them what is going on.