The extract also says he joined the Polish armed forces in 1942, at the age of 18, while he was in the Soviet Union. There his remarkable odyssey began; it continued after the war.
He moved to Canada in 1952 and eventually to the U.S., where he joined United Aircraft Export Corp. In 1962, with $3,000 in capital, he founded Kwiatkowski Aircraft, Inc. and set up an office in New York's Rockefeller Center. Since then he has made millions buying, leasing and selling all types of new and used commercial airplanes.
He has been credited with single-handedly bailing out financially teetering Trans World Airlines in 1975. At the time, TWA was in serious need of cash and looking to sell some airplanes. One of de Kwiatkowski's many notable acquaintances, the Shah of Iran, happened to be in the market for aircraft, and de Kwiatkowski brought the two parties together. In fact, the Shah insisted on dealing exclusively through de Kwiatkowski, who hammered out the deal after months of negotiations.
The Shah eventually bought nine TWA 747s for $150 million. When the Shah made the $90 million down payment, he wrote out the check to de Kwiatkowski, who had to endorse it before TWA could cash it. "The sale was a turning point in TWA's fortunes," L. Edwin Smart, chief executive of Trans World Corp., TWA's parent firm, has said. De Kwiatkowski's fee: $15 million.
De Kwiatkowski has also prospered as a horse owner. Since 1976, when he got into the business, he has struck gold three times. First he sold Danzig, whom he bought as a yearling for $310,000, for $2.8 million. De La Rose was purchased for $500,000; a broodmare, she's now valued at $3 million. Then came Conquistador Cielo. De Kwiatkowski is a gregarious, nonstop raconteur with a quick and ready smile—unless, that is, you're sitting across a table from him trying to buy his prized colt for $30 million, as Hancock was last August.
De Kwiatkowski says that his negotiations with Hancock went swimmingly—"Getting agreement with me took exactly 10 minutes," he says. "Absolutely no problem whatsoever"—but Hancock recalls it differently.
Hancock had drawn up his proposal on a yellow legal pad and, upon meeting de Kwiatkowski at the Reading Room, handed it to him to study. Hancock says he offered to syndicate the colt in 40 shares, 10 of which would be retained by de Kwiatkowski, at $30 million, or $750,000 a share, with each purchaser paying $50,000 down per share, $100,000 in January 1983 and then three payments of $200,000 each in the following three years, with 10% interest on the last four payments.
De Kwiatkowski tossed the paper back across the table. "This is meager," he said, "compared to Windfields' offer."
Hancock was startled. "I was surprised at his tone of voice and the way he pitched it back to me," Hancock says. "It was as though I'd insulted him." Hancock said he needed time to think it over, so they set another meeting for the next morning at the Reading Room.
Seeking counsel, Hancock talked to two Claiborne clients he expected would each want to take a share in Cielo. "You like him and we like him, so go on with it," they told him. The next morning Hancock made his second offer: $33 million, or $825,000 a share, with $50,000 down and annual payments of $150,000, $225,000, $200,000 and $200,000. The interest: still 10%.