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Thomas Flohr’s Rivals Joined Forces in ‘Deplorable’ Attempt To Damage His Reputation, Legal Filing Claims
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Thomas Flohr’s Rivals Joined Forces in ‘Deplorable’ Attempt To Damage His Reputation, Legal Filing Claims

VistaJet founder Thomas Flohr has filed legal papers alleging that two of his rivals conspired to take down his global private jet business.
By Exec Edge Editorial Staff

In a plot that sounds like it came from a movie, rivals of entrepreneur Thomas Flohr allegedly engaged in a conspiracy against him designed to damage his reputation and potentially bring down VistaJet, the private jet company he founded in 2004 that’s under the umbrella of parent company Vista, according to a recent legal filing made in London High Court.

The filing alleges that the conspiracy involves fake email accounts, a secret WhatsApp group, and the leaking of documents sealed by a London court. Flohr also contends that the conspiracy was masterminded by an old business partner and a current business rival.

Thomas Flohr’s allegations focus on John Matthews, the head of charter private aviation company AirX and Timothy Horlick, a former business partner currently involved in a lawsuit against Flohr. Specifically, Flohr believes Horlick leaked documents related to the ongoing lawsuit to his competitor, even though the court isn’t allowing the documents to be released publicly.

Both Horlick and Matthews deny involvement in a smear campaign against Flohr, according to Bloomberg.

The filing alleges that the two participated in a “scheme” to release the documents “to an audience selected so as to have the maximum likelihood of damaging the Defendant’s reputation and business interests, using a fabricated identity and a ‘burner’ email address. The situation is utterly deplorable.”

Who Is Thomas Flohr?

The target of the alleged conspiracy is VistaJet and Thomas Flohr, the Swiss-born businessman who founded VistaJet in 2004 to serve clients in Europe and the Middle East. VistaJet has since grown to a global business aviation company that has flown to 96% of the world’s countries. The company uses a subscription model that allows businesses access to a fleet of aircraft — including Bombardier 7500s, the fastest and longest-range jets in the world — without the expense of buying and maintaining a private jet of their own.

Before creating VistaJet in 2004, Flohr worked in asset finance. During that time, he used private charter jets and found that the industry was inconsistent and not focused on customer service at a level he felt was needed. He created VistaJet to fulfill what he saw as a need in the industry. Vista, the parent company of VistaJet, reported a record year in 2023 and expanded its operations into the United States.

In addition to running a global aviation company, Thomas Flohr is a racing driver in the Vista AF Corse team, driving a Ferrari 296 LMGT3 in the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship.

The other two main parties in the case are the head of jet charter company AirX — a smaller rival of VistaJet, also based in Malta — and Horlick, who was business partners with Flohr two decades ago in an investment partnership called Frontiers Capital. While the partnership dissolved years ago, Horlick reformed it and sued Flohr in 2021. Flohr denies the allegations and has been in a court battle with Horlick.

Attorney Calls Actions of Rivals ‘Reprehensible’

Flohr is represented in the case by London-based Grosvenor Law Limited. As part of the legal filings, Daniel Philip Astaire, an attorney with Grosvenor, filed a witness statement that lays out how Flohr and his legal team believe the conspiracy unfolded.

Astaire alleges in the statement that Horlick leaked documents he had filed as part of his lawsuit against Flohr. The documents are “a mass of prejudicial, irrelevant, and inadmissible material” involving Flohr’s business dealings, according to the legal filing. The court issued an order in July 2023 banning the release of the material to a third party while it decides whether the documents are admissible in the case, according to Flohr’s attorneys.

However, Astaire alleges that, in order to damage Flohr and VistaJet’s reputation, Horlick used the “reprehensible method” of passing the documents to Flohr’s competitor “with the obvious intention of injuring” Flohr and VistaJet. Matthews then, in turn, passed the documents on to VistaJet business partners, financial institutions, and the press, among others. Astaire noted that a German publication printed “word for word” language used in one of the documents.

Five emails containing the documents also apparently went to executives at Bombardier, the aircraft manufacturer that has sold many aircraft to VistaJet. The emails, which an executive forwarded to Thomas Flohr, came from an account with the name Wilhelm Hedwig. Flohr alleges this is a fake account set up by his rivals to disseminate the documents.

A WhatsApp Group and the Wilhelm Hedwig Emails

As part of the legal filings, Thomas Flohr’s team of attorneys provided copies of conversations held in a WhatsApp group called Vista Comms, formed in March 2023. The WhatsApp documents came from a whistleblower who doesn’t want their identity revealed out of fear of reprisal.

In his statement, Astaire alleges that the conversations in the Vista Comms group are between the competitor and employers at AirX. The messages make it clear that the people involved are in contact with journalists at WirtschaftsWoche in Germany, the Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Flohr’s rival also wrote to members of the group, “Let’s send things through an anonymous email” and “can we start up the anonymous email,” according to the transcripts.

Horlick, while not a member of the WhatsApp group, is mentioned. For example, Matthews, “Meeting Tim Horlick next week” on Nov. 21, 2023, and “On Thursday I’m having lunch with Tim Horlick” on Jan. 23, 2024.

Conversations in the transcripts also indicate that the competitor hoped to profit from VistaJet’s downfall.

“When read as a whole,” Astaire wrote in his statement, “the WhatsApps demonstrate a campaign by the participants to plant stories with the media, spread negative stories about VistaJet to business associates of my client, using untraceable emails to damage the company.”

Flohr is seeking a court order requiring Horlick to respond to the allegations.



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