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The Rich Aren't That Different - They Have Repo Men Too

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 23, 2010 1:58 PM

Perhaps you are a bit behind on your bills. Perhaps you have not made the last payment on your Gulfstream IV. What could possibly happen? A repo man like Ken Cage could come along and take off in your jet, leaving you gaping in the hanger.

Yes, just like those of us on the slightly lower end of the economic scale who lose our Hyundais to the slick and sneaky repo men of TV and movie fame, the very rich are liable to lose their property in just the same way. According to the Wall Street Journal, the moment an owner is in default on a jet, yacht or other pretty bauble, a businessman like Cage is ready to drive, fly or motor away with it. Note here that under most state laws, repossessions must not breach the peace. Specifically, this means nice guys like Cage will not threaten or physically harm an owner, break into a garage (or hanger), or stop an owner on the highway and snatch the Jag, but they may still walk away with the goods.

The Journal reports that as with any other repossessed items, after Cage and Co. take possession of for example, your yacht, they clean it, make any necessary repairs and then sell the item to a new owner. The proceeds then go to the bank, less Cage's expenses and fees, which can range from as much as 10% to as little as 2%, to outstrip the growing competition.

Cage's company, the Orlando-based International Recovery Group, repossessed more than 700 boats, planes, helicopters and other property last year valued at more than $100 million. Business, he says, is up six-fold from 2007. Cage estimates for the Journal that up to 70% of the victims of these repo round ups used to be players in the real estate market, with many of his targets residing in the familiar hard-hit states of Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California. On a personal finance note, Cage tells the Journal he feels less badly about repossessing a plane or flashy boat than a mini-van with a car seat in the back. "Going to someone's job to take their car," he says. "I had a tough time with that."

According to Cage, the pretty toys are just easier to repo as well. Unlike cars, there are just so many places you can park a plane. In addition, turns out airplane door locks are much easier to pick than car doors and complacent owners often leave keys lying in or around boats and planes. One possession Cage had to grab for a bank not too long ago was a little different: a race horse. It may not have had an alarm, but driving off into the sunset must have been a bit tricky.

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