Ricart, the auto merchant, thinks it can make a go... selling airplanes as part of its retail transport empire

Ricart, the auto merchant, thinks it can make a go of
selling airplanes as part of its retail transport empire
By Kathy Showalter
Fred and Rhett Ricart,
the car-selling brothers who
made the ad hype "We're
dealin' " synonymous with
their auto showrooms, are
dealing in a more glamorous
mode of transit - reconditioned airplanes.
The Ricarts formed a
company last October to
buy, refurbish and sell airplanes - from small-engine
aircraft to lO-seat executive
jets - in their latest move to
diversify their Columbusbased holdings.
With longtime Columbus
aircraft broker Randall Long
as its general sales manager,
Ricart Aviation Inc. has sold
eight planes, generating
$1.5 million in sales.
Long, through his Lancaster-based MCR Aviation,
has brokered airplane sales
for about 18 years. Joining
Ricart gives him the means
to expand his business.
For the Ricarts, it's another business avenue into the
transportation industry.
"We wouldn't go into the
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restaurant business because we don't know
anything about restaurants," said Greg
Dryden, chief operating officer for the
Ricart companies and a licensed pilot who
·bought his first airplane through Long.
'But buying, reconditioning and selling
transportation vehicles - that's what we
have expertise in."
llicart Aviationis a limited liability company separate from other llicart holdings,
which include nine new-car franchises and
used car, leasing, financing, cellular telephone, van, recreational vehicle and motor
homes sales operations. 1brough their
Tracir subsidiary, the Ricarts also sell property-and-casualty insurance.
Dryden said such diversity gives llicart
an edge among reconditioned aircraft dealers because Ricart Aviation can take a
trade on a motor home or a pricey Mercedes-Benztoward the purchase of a plane.
"It's one of our competitive advantages,"
he said.
Much of the contact with prospective
buyers is made over the Internet, Long
said. He was among 14 Ohio brokers listed
on Website Aircraft Shopper Online.
Carolyn Flick, associate publisher of
Tennessee-based Trade-a-Plane magazine,
said thousands of reconditioned airplanes
are bought and sold every year.
"It's a relatively small industry compared to the automobile industry or heavy
construction equipment, but these can be
high-ticket items," Flick said. "Used airplanes have appreciated substantially in
value. You can buy a plane today, fly it
several hundred hours and sell it for a
whole lot more than you paid for it."
The price appreciation is rooted in a
limited supply of aircraft.
Liabilityconcerns prompted many manufacturers to stop making small-engine aircraft in the 1980s. Though liability is now
capped by laws and modest new-plane
production has resumed, small aircraft
remain in limited supply.
Dryden said corporations' interest in
private planes is growing,because they can
prove a time saver for traveling executives.
One of llicart Aviation'sgoals is to sell Cen-
tra1Ohio executives on the price of owning
a plane that can be financed. over a number of years.
Long delivers international contacts to
Ricart Aviation. He has bought and sold
aircraft from and for clients in Europe,
South America, Australia and Africa. In the
late 1980s when the dollar was weak,
many American-made planes were sold to
European pilots, Long explained.
"Now, that's reversed," Long said.
"They're coming back."
Two aircraft purchased by Ricart Aviation were being flown from Europe the
week of April 12.
Ricart Aviation,based in Lancaster, has
10 planes prepared for sale, plus the two
being flown in from Europe. The planes
are stored in hangars at llickenbacker and
Fairfield County airports and at Lane Aviation at Port Columbus.
Among the inventory is a 1957-model
T-28, which was used to train Navy pilots
on take-offs and landings from the aircraft
carrier USS Lexington. The plane was
restored in 1996.
The T-28, dubbed a "Trojan warbird"
by enthusiasts, was built in Columbus at
the old North American plant. It will be
used by llicart Aviation at air shows to
market the company - unless someone
ponies up the $425,000 to buy it. .
The·most expensive aircraftin the Ricart
inventory: a jet priced at $2.65 million.
Dryden expects Ricart Aviation to
expand into sales of larger executive
planes. He projected 1999 revenue at $3
million to $4 million.
The company employs five.
Mac Gordon, senior editor with Michigan-based Ward's Dealer Business, said
branching into airplanes sales is unusual
for car dealers but not particularly out of
the ordinary for the llicarts.
"It's an unusual sideline, but they've
been looking at sidelines," Gordon said.
Because Ricart operates a financing
arm, the dealership does not refer an
unusually sizable portion of business to
Ford Motor Credit, given the size of the
company, Gordon said. Ricart sold more
than 30,000 cars in 1998 for more than
$600 million in gross revenue.
"When it comes to financing, they're
pretty much their own boss," Gordon said.