MD Helicopter owner Lynn Tilton said she will replace the henna tattoo on her back bearing the company logo with a permanent one if the Arizona-based firm meets her goal of winning the top customer service ratings in the helicopter industry.
“We could have a contest to pick the spot,” said Tilton, head of Patriarch Partners, a New York equity firm that specializes in turning around distressed industries. Tilton’s company has owned MD Helicopters since 2005, and she wore a leopard-skin print and black boots during an hour-long press briefing in which she jumped between light-hearted banter about tattoos to expressions of deep concern about the national and world economy.
Tilton said MD Helicopters delivered 52 aircraft in 2008, was profitable, and expects to deliver more than 70 aircraft this year. She said she hasn’t decided whether to move the company’s headquarters and production center to another state but negotiations are ongoing, and she will announce a decision in March after informing employees.
Tilton said MD Helicopters will continue manufacturing more parts in-house and claims the company has cut costs up to 40 percent and improved quality by avoiding the aviation industry’s outsourcing trend.
Tilton, whose firm owns 70 companies with 60,000 employees, said the current economic crisis will affect all industries – including helicopter manufacturers. She said few seem to understand the depth of the crisis caused by a financial system she termed “grossly insolvent,” and she said the turn-around won’t come until U.S. leaders recognize the vital importance of a healthy industrial base to long-term prosperity.
“This is not a cyclical downturn,” she said. “This is a secular change.”