Selling Airborne Opulence to the Upper Upper Upper Class

Article/Op-Ed in The New York Times Magazine
Jirat Teparaksa / Shutterstock, Inc.
Jan. 23, 2018

Gideon Lewis-Kraus interviewed Steve Varsano for the New York Times Magazine. Varsano is the owner of The Jet Business, the world's only jet airplane retail showroom, catering to a small pool of the wealthiest individuals in our society:

Like most people who make their living in private aviation, Steve Varsano — owner of the Jet Business, whose extravagant retail space in London is the world’s only walk-in storefront jet dealership — sees Trump’s election as a harbinger of great things for his industry. The early 2000s were boom times for aviation, and the crash of 2008, after years of ramped-up production, hit the industry hard, not just economically but politically. Barack Obama, Varsano believed, created an environment hostile to private aviation: The president humiliated the near-bankrupt auto manufacturers after they arrived in Washington hat in hand on their corporate jets, and in a 2011 news conference about the economy, Obama mentioned corporate jets six times. After Trump’s inauguration, when Varsano and I first spoke, he was once again sanguine about the sector’s prospects. He got so many phone calls after Nov. 8, 2016, he said, that he started looking for a new retail space twice the size. “The guy is changing the optics of private aviation,” he told me in March. “He’s the mascot of private jets.”
Varsano, who says he has sold or helped to sell almost 300 aircraft over the course of his career, is a large, fit, exceptionally good looking and effortlessly agreeable self-made man of 61. He has an imposing head crowned with slicked-back pewter hair, piercing eyes of an Aegean blue, an imperial nose and the resplendent smile of a beloved crooner on a Caesars Palace pension. He wears suits made by the Ghanaian-British Savile Row designer Ozwald Boateng over worn Italian loafers, and carries a weathered gray Louis Vuitton briefcase with a heavy metal clasp. His business card is milled from galvanized metal. By his estimate, the total value of sales he has brokered exceeds $4 billion.