Timing’s Everything for Two Top Execs

At a noisy, crowded charity auction the other night at The Mansion, a couple of CEO types who know all about the importance of timing greeted each other like long-lost friends. “How can you afford to be here?” airline executive Don Carty said, grinning broadly, to Blockbuster chief executive Jim Keyes. “You’re bankrupt!”

Blockbuster had indeed filed for Chapter 11 protection the day before, a last gasp after the company failed to refinance $1 billion in debt. Keyes said he fought to keep the movie-rental giant out of bankruptcy court “for 18 months” but that, in the end, it was the logical move and had a silver lining. “The great news,” Keyes said, “is that [when it’s over] we’ll be a debt-free company.”

Timing was on his pal Carty’s mind, too, though in a happier way. The former CEO of AMR Corp., Carty now is chairman of low-cost airline Virgin America, which will begin non-stop service from D/FW Airport to L.A. and San Francisco in December. According to insiders D/FW had courted Virgin for the last three years, and Virgin “accelerated” its startup schedule here by “a full year,” Carty disclosed. How come? “D/FW will be a friendly landlord,” he explained, and “Texas is not a bad place to be” given tougher economic conditions elsewhere.

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