by Patricia Sellers
"Azul is JetBlue in Brazil," says David Neeleman, who may be the most ambitious entrepreneur the skies have seen since the Wright Brothers.
You know Neeleman as the guy who created JetBlue (JBLU), altered the airline industry (in a customer-centric good way), and eventually got booted by his board for lax management during an epic ice storm.
Now Neeleman is in Brazil, working Latin America's largest, hottest growth market to achieve there what he once did here in America.
And so far, it's working. As I detail in "Azul: The Next JetBlue," which appears in the new issue of Fortune, Azul started flying in December 2008 and registered 2.2 million passengers in its first 12 months, shattering the previous record for a startup airline -- held by JetBlue. Neeleman has raised $235 million for the privately-held venture. He already employs more than 2,000 people and expects 2010 revenues to surpass $300 million.
One thing that has helped Neeleman get his fast start is a personal condition that many people would view as a handicap -- but he doesn't. Neeleman has attention deficit disorder, which he self-diagnosed at age 34.
His mom, he says, sent him a book called Driven to Distraction by Ed Hallowell. Then, in his early 40s, when he was running JetBlue and starting to talk about his ADD, Dr. Hallowell called him and offered to officially diagnose him.
Even though Neeleman's ADD once caused him to struggle in school and "feel stupid," as he told me, he now embraces his condition. In fact, two key executives who worked with Neeleman at JetBlue and now work with him at Azul also have ADD. One is chief marketing officer Trey Urbahn. The other is business development head Gerald Lee.
When I spent time with Neeleman and his execs in Sao Paulo, he told me he knew about Urbahn's condition, but not about Lee's. "Trey definitely has ADD," Neeleman said. "It helps him. He's a very creative guy." Neeleman added, "But I don't believe Gerald has ADD. You can't be a lawyer and have ADD."
In fact, ADD is a common trait in restless entrepreneurs and never-say-die visionaries -- as this startup guy well knows. Rolling his eyes, Neeleman said, "It's in vogue to say you have ADD."
"We're all about finding ways of raising discretionary revenue."
-- Michael O'Leary, CEO of low-cost Ryanair (RYAAY), floating the idea of charging passengers to use his planes' restrooms. While we understand that CEOs need to find creative ways to make money, it's getting ridiculous! And just in case you thought he was joking, O'Leary told the Dublin press, "Eventually it's going to happen. It's just that we can't do it at MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Mar 6, 2009 7:59 PM ET
Every manager is supposed be doing that these days. You know, there's a lot more risk in reinvention than just the uncertainty of your fancy new business model. In your rush to reinvent, you could well leave your core values behind.
I've been contemplating this lately for several reasons. For one, I'm sold on the wisdom of Jim Collins, the management guru who was part of a recent Fortune cover package MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 23, 2009 2:38 PM ET
When the ashes clear from this economic Armageddon, the leaders and organizations left standing will be the ones that stand for something. That have a clear purpose.
I'm sure of this because I worked with two CEO-founders who indeed stood for something: Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines (LUV) and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart (WMT). I worked with these iconic entrepreneurs on their companies' advertising, marketing and internal culture. They taught me MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 18, 2009 1:10 PM ET
Happy Friday! At least we have an auto bailout -- some reassurance to end another rough week.
As I've monitored the page views on Postcards (way up this week!), I've noticed a pattern: lots of interest in good news and lessons in leadership -- maybe because this is so hard to come by these days. Thursday's post on Execution dispensed management advice from successful CEOs like IBM's (IBM) Sam Palmisano and MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 19, 2008 3:05 PM ET
David Neeleman, the founder and former CEO of JetBlue (JBLU), launched his fourth low-cost airline Monday. This one is in Brazil. It's called Azul, which means "blue" in Portugese. It's a lot like JetBlue: TVs at every seat-back, leather seats, extra leg room, nonstop flights between cities that previously lacked nonstop service.
Who knows if Azul will take off, but Brazil's economy is growing faster than most (6.8% in the third MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 16, 2008 3:23 PM ET
'Tis the season for confessions. First comes denial -- every mortal's classic response in a crisis. But in times like these, any leader worth his or her lofty position and pay recognizes mistakes soon enough. True confession is the mark of a confident leader. So, what's your biggest mistake?
In the past week alone, we've noticed a positive trend: leaders fessing up. "GM has made mistakes in the past," General Motors MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 8, 2008 2:11 PM ET
By Jessica Shambora
Today marks the opening of Terminal 5, or T5, JetBlue's (JBLU) flashy new $743 million home at JFK, an event I have been anticipating with, perhaps, excessive zeal.
Over the past few years, the JetBlue terminal at JFK has been the portal through which I have traveled back and forth between the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up, and New York City, my new home. I've done MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 22, 2008 1:08 PM ET
My friend Terry McDevitt called this morning to tell me a story about women and power.
Terry, who once headed PR for Fortune and now runs McDevitt Media out of New York and San Antonio, was flying back to Texas from Newark yesterday and got stuck on the runway for two and a half hours. Don't you hate that? Summer storms, the folks at Continental Airlines (CAL) told her.
Luckily, Terry had MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 15, 2008 12:45 PM ET
Investors in airlines are nervously awaiting United's (UAUA) earnings report Tuesday. Last week's announcements from American Airlines (AMR) and Delta (DAL) spotlighted the awful state of the industry -- and the opportunities for vulture investors. When AMR Corp. and Delta announced second-quarter losses of $1.4 billion and $1 billion, respectively, their stocks surged 32% and 27%.
Amazing, isn't it, that this level of pain is considered positive news for the airlines? MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 21, 2008 1:36 PM ET
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