Wheels Up founder Kenny Dichter is flying high now that his private aviation company has gone public. The move could potentially add to Dichter’s net worth, which is estimated to be about $100 million.
Wheels Up went public this week through a merger with blank-check company Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle (ASPL). As the first private aviation company to go public, the merger gives the company a valuation of about $2.7 billion.
Shares of Wheels Up started trading on the NYSE on July 14 under the ticker symbol “UP.” By the market’s close, the shares were trading at $11.55.
How did Kenny Dichter make his money?
Dichter founded Wheels Up in 2013 with the vision that it would be the Uber or Airbnb in the sky. However, the company wasn’t his first business venture. The serial entrepreneur has created several successful businesses.
While he was still in college studying sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, he started the retail t-shirt business Bucky’s. The company eventually expanded to three stores in the state by the time Dichter graduated in 1990.
After graduating, Dichter teamed up with rapper and fellow entrepreneur Jesse Itzler to found Alphabet City Sports Records, which produced compilation CDs of songs often heard at sporting events. The duo sold the company in 1998 for over $4 million.
When did Kenny Dichter get into aviation?
Dichter's first ride in a private jet in 1998 made him set his sights on the sky. He borrowed a friend’s private plane to fly from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Kiawah Island in South Carolina, CNBC reports.
“It was love at first flight,” Dichter told CNBC in a 2017 interview.
Dichter started Marquis Jets in 2000. It was the first fractional jet ownership program available. The company was a success and was earning over $700 million per year within just seven years. After almost a decade, Dichter sold Marquis Jet to NetJets, which is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
It wasn’t too long after the sale of Marquis Jets that Dichter returned to the aviation world when he founded Wheels Up in 2013. Wheels Up had a different business model. Private flyers subscribe to memberships that allow them access to Wheels Up’s fleet of private planes.
Commercial airline Delta became a majority shareholder of the company in 2019.
Currently, Wheels Up owns or leases 170 planes and manages another 170. The company also uses a third-party network for access to more aircraft if needed.
In 2020, over 150,000 passengers flew on Wheels Up owned and partner planes. That same year, Dichter was named "Entrepreneur of the Year" at the Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards.
Besides his pursuits in aviation, Dichter got into the beverage industry when he founded Tequila Avión with Ken Austin. The tequila brand has received accolades as the best tequila in the world.
Who is Kenny Dichter’s wife?
Dichter is married to his college sweetheart, Shoshana Kamis Dichter. She served as the senior vice president of communications for Wheels Up until 2018.