SEATTLE, United States — Nordstrom Inc. owns two jets, regularly leases two and employs either nine or 12 pilots, depending on who’s counting. A shareholder says there’s something’s wrong with that mix.

Lots of companies have planes to ferry employees around, and there’s nothing unusual about an executive taking a corporate aircraft on a non-business junket, a perk that’s often part of compensation. The Nordstrom twist is that its crews also fly, service and manage planes that belong to descendants of founder John W. Nordstrom. The claim in a lawsuit is that they’ve paid cut-rate fees for the use of company pilots and other aviation staff, and that directors sanctioned it.

“Nordstrom has secretly diverted millions of dollars in hidden subsidies to the Nordstrom family,” the plaintiff, Judith Burbrink, says in the suit in federal court in Seattle.

Tara Darrow, a Nordstrom spokeswoman, says Burbrink’s allegations are baseless and disputes several assertions in the suit, including one that the company employs 12 pilots; Darrow says it’s nine. The family makes full reimbursements, she says, and the arrangement with the clan helps “maintain our Nordstrom aircraft at a lower cost to shareholders.”

Corporate jets can be flashpoints for investors, and there’s been a rash of cutting back. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is selling its Gulfstream G550, which had an infamous rulebook with guidelines about the underwear worn by models working on board, and Target Corp.’s new chief executive agreed to pay if he racks up more than $175,000 in personal trips a year on Target’s four jets. Tesco Plc’s about to jettison the last plane in what was a fleet of five, seen as a symbol of excess as it struggled.


Credit: Business of Fashion
Photo: Bloomberg