Former NetJets executive joining private equity firm

AP News
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Posted: Oct 29, 2015 4:09 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The former Berkshire Hathaway executive who earned praise from Warren Buffett while leading NetJets for four years is joining a private equity firm that invests in hotels.

Four months after Jordan Hansell resigned in the midst of NetJets' contract dispute with its pilots' union, he took a job as president of Rockbridge Capital.

While at NetJets, Hansell had appeared alongside Buffett in interviews to discuss the cost-cutting turnaround he led from 2011 until June. But near the end of tenure, Hansell became the focus of the union's ire over concessions the company sought in prolonged talks.

"Ultimately, it became a little bit about me as a leader, and I thought it was probably best if I got out of the way to see if they could come to a conclusion in those arrangements," Hansell said about why he left NetJets.

The company's 2,700 pilots reached a tentative contract agreement with NetJets earlier this month. The company sells partial ownership interests in a fleet of more than 700 business jets.

During Hansell's time with NetJets, Buffett praised his efforts to cut costs after demand for private jets plummeted in the midst of the Great Recession. Buffett did not respond to questions this week.

Hansell seemed to tire of the challenging economic conditions NetJets faced. Now at Rockbridge Capital, Hansell will get more opportunity to use the dealmaking skills he learned before joining NetJets as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer.

"When I arrived at NetJets along with others, it was in 2009 in very difficult circumstances," Hansell said. "Rockbridge is in a position of strength and that gives us a different set of opportunities."

Since 1992, Rockbridge has completed more than 300 hotel deals worth more than $5 billion as it mostly buys, improves and resells hotels.

Both NetJets and Rockbridge are based in Columbus, Ohio, while Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rockbridge CEO Jim Merkel said he wanted to hire Hansell because of his experience running a large, complicated business and because of his background.

"With Jordan's exposure to and experience with Warren, we hope a little bit of that rubs off on our investments going forward and we'll do just fine," Merkel said.

NetJets is one of nearly 90 companies Berkshire owns. The eclectic mix of companies includes Geico, General Re, BNSF railroad, Dairy Queen and others. Berkshire also holds big investments in companies like Coca-Cola Co., Wells Fargo & Co., International Business Machines Corp. and American Express Co.

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Online:

NetJets Inc.: www.netjets.com

Rockbridge Capital: http://www.rockbridgecapital.com

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: www.berkshirehathaway.com

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