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NetJets: Ready for takeoff?

Published May 17, 2010 on Pilot Jobs

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If it's possible, Berkshire Hathaway's NetJets unit seems to have troubles rivaling those of longtime pitchman Tiger Woods. But Berkshire chief Warren Buffett says the company's rehabilitation is well under way.


NetJets, which sells fractional ownership shares in private planes to well-to-do travelers, was "the major problem for Berkshire last year," Buffett wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders.

NetJets lost $711 million for the year, Buffett wrote, wiping out previous years of profitability and leaving the business $157 million in the red, before taxes, since Berkshire acquired it in 1998.

Back then, Berkshire forked over $725 million in cash and stock for the company, then called Executive Jet. In an interview with Forbesmagazine, Buffett made clear that he had big plans for the company, likening it to a startup that revolutionized the package delivery business.

"FedEx started small and is now huge," Buffett said. "Same thing will happen with Executive Jet."

Executive Jet, now called NetJets, has indeed gotten huge. The value of its jet fleet exceeds that of its three top competitors combined, Buffett wrote in this year's letter.

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