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Thu, Jan 29, 2009

Starbucks Latest Company To Forgo Corporate Jet

Company Has Less Than 20 Flights On New G550

For whatever reason -- be it the economy, White House pressure, or bickering shareholders -- selling off corporate jets is all the rage right now. Seattle-based coffee conglomerate Starbucks Corp. is the latest company to forgo one of its company aircraft

There's a quirk, however: the company took delivery of the $45 million Gulfstream G550 just last month.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports the aircraft, N211HS, is now being offered by Avpro Inc. The aircraft has less than 40 hours total time, with fewer than 15 cycles since Starbucks accepted the plane in December 2008... about the same time the company announced it planned to close more of its stores, and would reconsider how much it would contribute to employee 401(k) plans.

The timing of the delivery (around four years after Starbucks ordered the plane, incidentally) couldn't have come at a worst time for the coffee giant.

Since November, corporate aircraft have drawn fire from lawmakers -- and, increasingly, the general public -- after the CEOs of the Detroit Three automakers flew to Washington in their individual corporate jets, to beg for federal bailout money. Regardless of the logical reasons for that decision, it was still a PR-blunder arguably rivalling New Coke.

So far, Starbucks hasn't begged for a taxpayer-funded bailout... and the company was also trying to sell an older, less-efficient Gulfstream G-V to offset some of the purchase cost. Nevertheless, the combination of a hostile economic environment, and the company's purportedly "green" reputation, was apparently enough to kill the Frapjet.

The announcement comes two days after Citibank similarly capitulated, and said it would cancel its contract for a new Dassault Falcon 7X.

For what it's worth, Starbucks' decision probably means a pretty good deal for the G550's next owner. After all... in addition to the full Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite complete with synthetic vision, they'll be able to enjoy a tasteful interior "completed in neutral tones of gray leather and gray cashmere," and sporting high-gloss "Australian Walnut woodwork... enhanced with satin nickel plating," for what should be a fairly significant discount over new, given the slumping bizjet market.

Still, we can't help but recall a comment made by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh earlier this month, when news first surfaced of Starbucks' new plane. Commenting on the resulting public outcry, Limbaugh pointed out that, truly, "[i]t's none of anybody's business."

Yeah, so much for that sentiment for awhile...

FMI: www.starbucks.com, www.avprojets.com

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