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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

TECHNOLOGY—It’s the Plane Truth CEO Enjoys Rush Hour

High-Tech: Internet Exec Soars Over

Traffic in His Cessna

Three or four days a week, Steve Hamerslag makes his way from Rancho Santa Fe to his job in Los Angeles. But don’t pity him for such a hellish commute. Hamerslag, CEO for j2 Global Communications Inc., takes to the air to get from here to there and back home again.

He flies a Cessna 340 MG, usually picking up his two top lieutenants for the 38-minute ride from Palomar Airport in Carlsbad to the Burbank Airport. Hamerslag, who took over as CEO for the company in January when his firm was acquired by J2 Global, said he never considered making the commute via car when he accepted the company’s top position.

“I don’t think it would be possible for me to commute by car,” said Hamerslag, 44. “It’s too stressful and time consuming and too unpleasant to even think about.” Counting the drive times to and from the airports, the commute takes an average of an hour and 20 minutes, but can take as much as two hours if there’s traffic jams , usually around Hollywood, where j2 Global is headquartered, he said. If he can’t stand fighting traffic, why not simply relocate north, he’s asked.

Not An Option

That’s not an option, Hamerslag says.

“I love Rancho Santa Fe, and don’t want to live up there,” he said. “I moved here (from Orange County) for the quality of life and intend to stay here.” That move worked out fine while he was heading up Fax4Free.com, the Carlsbad company he ran. But when the firm was sold last year, Hamerslag was faced with a much longer trip to the office. As a veteran pilot with 22 years’ experience and the owner of his own plane, Hamerslag said it was a relatively easy choice. “This represented a very good opportunity for me. It’s an exciting Internet business and one that I was having fun with,” he said of the Nasdaq-traded company that had sales of $10 million last year. “As long as I am having fun and able to grow the company, I’ll continue to do this.”

On most days Hamerslag takes to the skies, and two other j2 Global execs, Tim Johnson and John Davis, hitch a ride. “It’s the ultimate car-pool lane,” said Johnson, vice president of product marketing and business development.

Easy Commute

Johnson, 36, spends most flights just stretching out in the back of the six-seater, listening to CDs and preparing for the day. It’s fun sometimes waving to his children as he passes over his home along the Carlsbad coast. “It’s great. We couldn’t do what we do without this.” Johnson recalled only one really scary time since he began flying with his boss. It was on a flight from the Napa Valley to Reno, Nev., where the twin-engine plane hit some stormy weather. “When we were flying into Reno, we hit crosswinds of 23 knots, and the plane was built to handle winds of 25 knots,” he said. “Literally, it was like landing (the plane) sideways.” Johnson plans to move to Santa Barbara soon, but he’ll still hitch rides with Hamerslag whenever they travel to business meetings to the north. On the other days, he’ll have to take his 1996 BMW 740 sedan. Hamerslag and his commuting buddies usually receive stunned reactions when people find out of their air commute. “It’s something like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing! What could be worth that?'” For Hamerslag, his answer is his job, and his sanity.


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