A&B sells corporate jet to bring costs down
to earth

The company's executives now must fly coach

By Rick Daysog

The corporate jet, once a symbol of the high-flying Hawaii economy during the late 1980s, has become a target of downsizing.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. said it sold its executive jet, a British Aerospace Plc model, to a private individual last month as part of a major cost-cutting move. About a year earlier, A&B sold its shorter-range Cessna Citation jet, the company said.

"We're essentially out of the airplane business," said John Kelley, vice president of investor relations at A&B.

Another company with local ties, former isle developer Christopher Hemmeter's HP Inc., sold its Hawker 700 aircraft last fall just as Hemmeter's companies ran into financial difficulties, said Mark Hemmeter, former vice president at Hemmeter Enterprises.

He said there was no need for the plane because Hemmeter Enterprises, which subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, did most of its business in Colorado.

Kelley declined to disclose the name of the buyer of Alexander & Baldwin's jet, saying the details of the recent sale are subject to a confidentiality agreement. He said the company acquired the British Aerospace jet, which seats about eight passengers and a crew, for about $10 million several years ago.

According to Kelley, the sales are part of a cost-cutting program that has included freezing executives' salaries, eliminating executives' use of company cars and reducing the company's overall payroll by 10 percent.

Company executives must now fly on commercial airlines in coach class, unless they upgrade to first-class at their own expense, Kelley added.

Dubbed the "Manu Kapu" or "sacred bird" in the Hawaiian language, the British Aerospace jet was used by Alexander & Baldwin executives and board members to travel between Honolulu and mainland cities for business meetings and talks with Wall Street investment analysts, Kelley said.

The older Cessna jet, dubbed "Imua" which means "forward," was used for neighbor island business trips, Kelley said.

"There was a time when the aircraft was justifiable (but) under the present economic conditions it was not justifiable," he said.

Others say they can justify their use of corporate jets.

First Hawaiian Inc. said its jet, a Falcon 50 made by Dassault Aviation S.A. of France, has paid off as an investment.

For instance, company executives often give aerial tours to out-of-town businessmen interested in investing in Hawaii, said Gerry Keir, First Hawaiian's senior vice president of corporate communications.

Keir noted that the jet, which seats nine passengers and a crew, is the latest in a string of three planes beginning with its 1978 purchase of a Learjet model. The first two were sold at a profit, he said. "Over the years it's been very successful in hosting customers and in bringing in business."

Dole Food Co. also plans no changes in its use of corporate jets. The company often used its plane, a Mystere Falcon 900 made by Dassault Aviation, to fly executives to areas where it does business, including foreign countries such as Panama.

Dole, which declined comment on its use of corporate jet citing security reasons, has also lent the jet to Dole Chief Executive Officer David Murdock for personal trips. In 1995, Murdock reimbursed the company $100,789 for personal use of the jets, according to a company proxy statement.

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