a personal memoir
Unusual financing for a Brazilian deal
By Alex Kvassay
Former salesman for Beech and Learjet
As a Learjet distributor during Kvassay's time with the company, José Afonso Assumpção, founder and president of Líder Táxi Aéreo, sold more than 100 Learjets in Brazil.
This story shows the fantastic efficiency of our government in Washington DC. It started in the early 1970s with a Learjet 24 that was cut in half, a 30-inch fuselage extension inserted, the sections reconnected, and the result called the Learjet 25 prototype.
Once the 25 was certified, the airplane itself was no longer needed. Even though the aircraft was FAA certified, our domestic sales staff wanted nothing to do with this jerrybuilt Learjet 25. So I told them, "Okay, I'll try to sell it overseas."
They set the price at $1 million, which was a bargain. I called my good friend José Afonso Assumpção, founder and president of Líder Táxi Aéreo in Brazil. Sure enough, he said he wanted the aircraft, adding, "In Brazil we don't bother with the details."
He came to Wichita to pick up the aircraft and brought along papers in which the US Aid Program in Rio de Janeiro agreed to finance this purchase, through the Manufacturers Hanover Bank in New York.
And with these papers I committed an inexcusable sin. In our business you never, ever release an airplane, particularly if it is going out of the country, before you have the final payment on hand. But this was an old customer with excellent credit rating and he was in a hurry. So, I told him, "Go on—take the aircraft. I'll collect the money."
A good "friend" of mine within the company immediately called Charles Gates in Denver CO to report my transgression. (Gates was the president of Learjet before Harry Combs took over.)
I jumped on to the next flight to New York before Charles Gates could call me.
On arrival at the bank I was greeted with the unwelcome news that US Aid in Washington had stated that they were not in the business of financing airplanes, no matter what US Aid in Rio might have said.
I was not at all concerned about the airplane—my friend would have brought it back if I was in trouble—but it was a matter of having broken all the rules.
I asked the banker to make an appointment for me with the Latin American director of US Aid in Washington for the next morning. After pointing out that I was wasting my time, he gave me a sheet of green paper and said, "All I need is a signature and a rubber stamp imprint on this paper, and I can pay your company immediately. But, I repeat, you're wasting your time."
I had an appointment for the next morning at 9:00. I took the shuttle to Washington, where I stayed overnight at the Hilton across the street from the US Aid office.
I walked over early and was in the manager's office by 8:45.
There I was received by a very unfriendly and very obese secretary who told me brusquely to sit down and wait.
A few minutes later she turned to me. "What do you want from him anyway?"
"All I want is for him to sign this green sheet of paper and fix a US Aid rubber stamp on it." The self-important female answered, "I can do that!" and proceeded to do exactly as she said.
No one ever ran out of the US Aid office in such a hurry, afraid of meeting the boss at the door. I took the Eastern shuttle back to New York.
Banker: "How did you do this?" Me: "Never mind."
The money was in our bank before I arrived back in Wichita. And Mr Gates never called me on this case.
Well, for Washington $1 million was petty cash, and I never heard from them again. But remember that this was a loan, duly repaid, and not a grant.
Alex Kvassay sold corporate aircraft for 30 years, earning a reputation as the industry's premier international salesman of his day. Now 85, retired and living in Wichita KS, Kvassay continues to travel for pleasure—recent solo trips have taken him to Libya, North Korea and Cuba.