Running a business can be like guiding a racehorse: If you see an opening to get ahead of the crowd, sometimes you've just got to seize the opportunity.
That's exactly what private aviation firm Wheels Up co-founders Bill Allard and Kenny Dichter did on Thursday when they received a call from Ben Sturner, chief executive of the Leverage Agency. Sturner represents American Pharoah and the horse's owner, Ahmed Zayat, and was looking for a firm willing to pay for a sponsorship during the Belmont Stakes race this weekend. Sturner has known Allard and Dichter for years.
All eyes will be on American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza this weekend, of course, as the horse tries to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. And the viewers will notice a certain corporate logo: Wheels Up's name will appear on Espinoza's pant legs. Allard, who works out of his Cohasset home office, said Zayat will also wear a hat with his New York-based firm's logo on it during certain media appearances.
Allard declined to disclose the financial details of the arrangement, or to say whether it would continue beyond this weekend's big race.
Allard said Sturner placed the call at 7 a.m. By 8:15, he said, the deal was done.
"We looked at this as a historic opportunity," Allard said. "We knew they were talking to other companies [but] if we could act quickly and nimbly, we could preempt the other companies that were considering it."