Gareth Long is a business owner, but in a lot of ways, he’s sort of like a superhero. The guy has created 320 jobs in Las Vegas since 2007—no small feat during the Great Recession. That aside, how he got to Las Vegas is even more, well, super.
In 2006, he was living in the Napa Valley, when he got bit by a spider (Spider-Man, anyone?) and “got knocked out for almost six months,” he says. After that experience, Long started a check-cashing business called Altcharge with $246 of his own money, decided to move to Las Vegas and made his fortune—unlike so many who gambled before him—in the Mojave desert.
Oh, and he flies jets and drives fast, flashy cars for fun. Boys do love their toys.
“I’m a solutions provider,” Long says of his 24/7, 365-days-a-year gig. “I hate the term ‘entrepreneur’ because that implies that someone is asking for money to start a business. Everything we do has been funded by us.”
All profits from his businesses go back into creating more and more, Long says. “I have a lot of fun creating new businesses,” he says.
Since making Las Vegas his base of operations, Long has created 11 businesses, with Altcharge being his largest. Others include Nu Sanctuary Lounge, in which he’s the primary investor, a Grand Canyon tours company, Laziza Hookah Lounge and Sky Combat Ace, a company that lets customers fly a real fighter jet—after some training, of course.
Long has a ton of cool, expensive possessions, including a slew of cars that would make Jay Leno drool—a Porsche Panamera, an ultra-sexy Lamborghini Superleggera and a Bentley Continental for carting around the kids, among others. Long and his business partner for aviation enterprises, Richard Coe, own 27 planes, total. Why? He says, bluntly, “Because it’s fun. Because we can. Because it’s business,” he says.
Long says his favorite luxury is his L-39 Albatros, a real fighter jet with its bombing ability removed.
“Everyone needs a release,” he says. “Some people golf. I fly Russian fighter jets.”
Don’t worry. It’s OK to be a little jealous.
Long is a high-school dropout whose father worked building railroad tracks in England while he was growing up. “People think I was born with a silver spoon,” he says. “I wasn’t.”
Long was born in the same location in Horley, Surrey, England, where Virgin Atlantic mogul Richard Branson, another bon vivant CEO with an affinity for over-the-top possessions, started his businesses. But although Long admires Branson—as well as Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson—he doesn’t invite the comparison.
“Branson builds up businesses and sells them. I don’t do that,” he says. “I keep them and build them.”
And Las Vegas is the perfect city for all of this excitement and innovation, he says.
“I love hot weather, I love great food and I love being able to do something different every night,” he says, adding that there’s literally nowhere on earth he’d rather be. “I knew there would be business for me here because there’s so much diversity. There’s a little bit of the whole world in Las Vegas.”
There aren’t any excuses for how bad Las Vegas’ economy has gotten, he says. We got ourselves into this mess, and we have to get ourselves out. “My advice: Stick with what you’re good at,” he says. “I’m good at this.”
Long says he thinks the key to solving Las Vegas’ grave economic problems is simply working hard and being innovative, much like himself. Besides, Las Vegas is a great place to bring clients because wowing them is so easy here. “When clients come to see us,” he says, “we usually close the deal.”
“I could be on the beach in Dubai with a laptop. I could be in the Black Forest in Germany,” he says. “I want to be here.”
And given Gareth Long’s penchant for creating jobs, that’s pretty cool news for Las Vegas, too.