Mansour Ojjeh, who died June 6, had a big impact on everyone who knew him, either personally or in his role as TAG Aviation’s founder and president of TAG Group. I’m honored to say I knew him—both through business and as a friend—for 44 years.
I first met him, along with his brother and business partner, Aziz, in 1977 in Montreal at the rollout of the original Challenger 600, for which they’d placed a large launch order. Mansour and Aziz, who had been attending college in California and also taking flying lessons, immediately impressed me as articulate young men who were on a mission.
The Ojjeh family was already familiar with business aviation, having owned numerous business aircraft. Mansour’s father, Akram, had just formed the original TAG company, Techniques d ’Avant Garde.
Upon Akram’s death in 1991, Mansour became president of the family enterprises. In 1998 he acquired California-based Aviation Methods and Switzerland-based Aero Leasing, and merged his businesses into Geneva-headquartered TAG Aviation. Mansour asked one of the original principals of Aviation Methods, Roger McMullin, to take over the new organization. McMullin accepted and moved to Geneva, where he was CEO of TAG Aviation for 10 years and later became Mansour’s closest non-family confidant. TAG Aviation grew into one of the industry’s premier charter, management and MRO operations, with world-class FBOs in Geneva and Farnborough, a Dassault service center, and a significant Asian footprint.
Mansour oversaw all of this expansion. Commanding and impeccably dressed, he was also down to earth. And he consistently put his employees’ well-being ahead of any financial decisions. I’ll never forget arriving at EBACE early one morning and seeing billionaire Mansour standing proudly in front of his stand, ready to greet customers and friends from around the world.
I also have fond memories of EBACE dinner parties at Mansour’s magnificent Lake Geneva home, which featured excellent food and wine and a guest list limited to about a dozen industry friends. And I vividly remember a white-linen Mansour dinner held right on the production floor at the McLaren Group headquarters in Woking, England. We all know Mansour from his aviation exploits, but he also loved Formula One racing and valued his ownership stake in McLaren.
Another Mansour legacy is the Aviator Hotel in Farnborough. What was originally supposed to be simply a place to house pilots turned into south London’s only five-star hotel. But perhaps Mansour’s biggest aviation legacy is the spectacular TAG Farnborough, which always rates number one in AIN’s international FBO Survey.
Though Mansour underwent a double lung transplant in 2013, he retained enough strength to continue a basically normal lifestyle for another seven years. Nonetheless, a few years ago, he started selling off aviation assets, including the MRO facility (to Dassault Aviation), the Geneva FBO (to Signature), and the Farnborough FBO (to Macquarie). Steven Young, TAG Asia’s majority shareholder, purchased the charter management operations in Asia and Europe. Thus, TAG Aviation continues as a business enterprise, exactly as Mansour would have wanted it.
He was unique in how he conducted himself and dealt with people, and he exuded an infectious love of life. The world has lost a shining star in Mansour, who will be terribly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.