Capstar, A Salute to Service

 

Charles Bowmont is describing the scene. “You get out of the airport and there’s a sea of Mercedes and Cadillac SUVs.” But then, amid the Mercedes and Cadillacs and taxis, there’s a Jaguar, piloted by an immaculately dressed trained veteran, ready to take you home. “And that,” enthuses Bowmont—who is actually the Marquis of Bowmont and the soon-to-be Duke of Roxburghe—“is Capstar.”
There are many remarkable aspects to Capstar, the luxury chauffer business Bowmont founded with Rob Bassett Cross in 2013: for instance, the way it has become one of the more active private companies—rather than a government—to provide meaningful employment opportunities for veterans in both the United Kingdom and the United States; the way it went from an idea in Bowmont’s head to a fully operational business in two continents (Capstar currently operates in New York and London) in just a few years; the unique fleet of cars it steadily keeps on the road; its services in private aviation. But the most remarkable fact about Capstar is that it continues to help veterans transition to other positions as well. Capstar, in essence, is a springboard for ex-soldiers to find careers in almost any industry.
“A lot of these guys didn’t think they were necessarily going to be chauffer drivers for life,” says Bowmont, a vet of the British Army. “And many are recruited by our top clients to do other things. Actually, that’s part of the whole motivation of why we set it up: it provides an opportunity for someone else.” One ex-driver, for instance, is now working for a major telecommunications company in London. Another is the head of security for a hedge fund. “And these guys started doing airport runs,” says Bowmont.
Soon, we will be in a world that not many people know is so close at hand: where cars can essentially drive themselves. Bowmont talks about these advances as if they are right around the corner. It might feel like the future to us, but to him it’s as though this is an almost inevitable iteration of what those in the automobile industry know can be done already.
Of course, this will most likely affect drivers working for services like Uber or Lyft. Companies with tens of thousands of cars on the road who aim to get customers from point A to point B. Fortunately, the practical present-day focus at Capstar is on service and security. They happily cater to very specific needs. A CEO may use a Capstar driver to take her to and from work, but the same CEO may also use Capstar to have her children dropped off at school. “A lot of clients love the idea that they know the drivers personally,” assures Bowmont. “And all the guys have been highly vetted.” For Bowmont, it is a point of pride to uphold these high standards and hire unique employees like Dan Richards, a former lance-bombardier.
Richards is one of Capstar’s most requested drivers. And Dan Richards, who endured a terrible accident, has a prosthetic hand. Before Capstar, he, like many veterans who have suffered from posttraumatic stress, had a difficult time finding a job. “He filled out 324 job applications and got three interviews in that process,” recalls Bowmont. When a charity introduced Richards to Capstar, “he was a bit of a shell of his former self,” notes Bowmont. Capstar, through its training program, helped build Richards back up, and last year, in 2015, he received the Professional Driver of the Year award in United Kingdom. “Effectively,” says Bowmont, “ the chauffer driver’s Oscars.”
Richards has much to recommend him. He isn’t just a good chauffeur. He embodies the spirit of Capstar itself. He is all its elements—discipline, honor, integrity, reliability, trust—rolled into one.