Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lynn Tilton named 'Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year'

She's known for rescuing companies on the brink of bankruptcy. Her $8 billion private equity firm owns all or part of 74 companies, including MD Helicopters in Mesa.

Now Lynn Tilton has been named America's "Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year," one of the flight industry's most prestigious honors.

She was praised for her turnaround of MD Helicopters as she was presented the award Friday in Beverly Hills at the Eighth Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards ceremony, which is often referred to as the aviation industry's Academy Awards.

"I am both humbled and honored by this valued recognition in an industry that attracts so many talented leaders and great warriors," she said.

"Once tempted, it is difficult not to fall in love with aviation and to devote oneself fully to the mission at hand."

Tilton, 52, was selected by the 70 Living Legends of Aviation, a group of aviation entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders, record breakers, astronauts and pilots that meets annually to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the field.

The awards gala is produced by Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, a non-profit organization that introduces children to aviation and encourages them to study science and math disciplines that are essential to aviation's continuing evolution.

Awards were to be presented by celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, John Travolta, Harrison Ford and Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who was praised for his heroism after piloting a US Airways flight that landed safely on the Hudson River in 2009.

Tilton, a single mom, industrialist and globe-trotting executive, is founder and chief executive of Patriarch Partners LLC, which is based on Wall Street. She also serves as chairwoman and CEO of MD Helicopters, one of Patriarch's portfolio companies and a firm founded by aviation pioneer Howard Hughes.

Since acquiring the company in August 2005, Tilton has led MD to profitability.

It delivered more than 50 helicopters in 2008, just three years after Tilton inherited the company's shuttered production line and shattered supply chain.

MD has been recognized as an industry leader in customer service and support of its more than 3,000 aircraft in operation around the world.

"I'm thrilled for her recognition in the aviation field," said Bill Jabjiniak, Mesa's economic-development director. "But it is her business acumen that is exceptional, and that is demonstrated by MD Helicopters here in Mesa.

"You have to give her all the credit in the world. She called this economic downturn (before it happened), and she survived it and things are looking good for MD and her other companies."

Since Tilton founded Patriarch in 2000, it has bought more than 150 companies, including Dura Automotive, American LaFrance, Denali, and purchased iconic brands such as Rand McNally, Spiegel Catalogs and Stila Cosmetics.

She has specialized in buying down-and-out industrial companies and revitalizing their manufacturing operations with new management teams and products.

She also has served as an advocate for U.S. manufacturing interests.

With more than 120,000 employees, Patriarch has become the largest female-owned business in America, and Tilton is regarded as one of the richest self-made women in the country.

by Art Thomason The Arizona Republic Jan. 23, 2011 12:00 AM

Lynn Tilton named 'Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year'

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