Where is Laasner today and the Swiss Lottery invested heavily in IFEN

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Tue November 12 2002, 12:24 PM
Where is Laasner today and the Swiss Lottery invested heavily in IFEN
An unnamed and very reliable source today told me the following information.

Karl Laasner the former marketing executive that was in charge of the IFEN for Swissair is still running an inflight entertainment consulting business. Apparently the source says that there isn’t much business these days. You can check out his site at:

Though he is retired for the most part, Karl Laasner is also selling houses. The person also reported that he doesn’t feel that he has done anything wrong because he never made any money off of the shares he had in IFT (Interactive Flight Technologies, the company that manufactured the IFEN).

Here is some other information the person was good enough to share that might interest you:

“A little known fact is that Swiss Los, the swiss national gambling company (called Landeslotterie back then) heavily invested in the IFEN system. Swiss (air) needed their cooperation since they're the only ones who are allowed to run gambling schemes in Switzerland. Back in 1996 when the IFEN thing got started they were really proud of it, but they didn't say a word on it after 1998 for obvious reasons.”
I just want to take a moment to thank this person for sending that information along. We are always very grateful for any updates and will respect the confidentiality of the sender.

Edited to add an old post from Mark back in '99

Lassner, IFT, IFEN Questions

I'd like to hear the IFT guy that sold the
Swissair deal tell all. How did he do the deal? From my
perspective, it's nothing short of amazing. Look at what we DO
know: - IFT was a spinoff of a company that makes
networked bingo machines (Fortunet); - Michael Itkis was
the founder and president of IFT, prior to which he
worked for his father, Uri Itkis, CEO of Fortunet.
Somehow, with absolutely no experience in the Aviation
Industry, IFT was able: (1) to get former U.S. Secretary of
Defense Alexandar Haig to sit on it's board, (2) to close
the Swissair deal and (3) to successfully raise money
through an IPO. - Their (rather outrageous)
proposition was that in addition to Video on Demand and Video
games, their IFEN would support casino style video
gambling. Customers could gamble to a $350 limit on their
credit cards. In return for a portion of the gaming
revenue, IFT would install and maintain the IFEN at _no
cost_ to Swissair. - It's not clear how U.S. law
prohibiting airborne gaming were circumvented. There have
been vague references to some involvement by the Swiss
lottery.** - The gambling attraction was an abject failure.
Swissair was forced to renegotiate maintenance contracts
with IFT when it became clear that the company would
be insolvent otherwise (with no other customers and
no source of revenue). - Michael Itkis crafted a
plan for IFT to exit the IFEN business and enter
_retail dry cleaning_. They began a campaign to acquire
dry cleaning operations. - Michael Itkis and his
management team were thrown out after a proxy fight wherein
current chairman Irwin Gross's investment company teamed
with Uri Itkis to unseat Michael. So the big
questions are: - Who in Swissair was the "sponsor" of
this project? Was it really Lassner or was he someone
else's liutenant for the project? - Who knew who? Who
in IFT closed the deal and who in Swissair
ultimately made the decision? - Regardless of what the
cause of the crash is ultimately determined to be, we
know that the IFEN project was ill conceived and
poorly executed, _quite the opposite of what we would
expect from Swissair. Other carriers trialed the system
and rejected it (Alitalia, Qantas). What was the
motivation? I am not one to promulgate conspiracy
theories, but I would like to have _some_ rational
explanation for who things could get this twisted.

**See above post-apparently the Swiss lottery was heavily invested in the IFEN according to my source.
Tue November 12 2002, 01:21 PM
You will notice of course that though he mentions installing the IFEN on swissair's 747 aircraft in '97, there is no reference to the MD-11 at all. Hmmm.....
Wed November 13 2002, 07:45 AM
Thu December 05 2002, 01:49 PM
This is an interesting press release. Note the words I've put in bold type.

Inflight Gambling Comes To Swiss Air

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, U.S.A., 1997 JAN 28 (NB) --
REPEAT/By Bill Pietrucha. Statistics show the odds of
flying safely are pretty good, but the odds of landing
with one's wallet intact just plummeted. Interactive
Flight Technologies Inc. [NASDAQ:FLYT] today became the
first-ever provider of in-flight gambling, following the
flight of a Swissair MD-11 featuring Interactive Flight
Technologies' Inflight Entertainment Network

Since the system will be offered in all three seating
classes, the Swissair launch also established Interactive
Flight Technologies as the first to provide interactive
video-on-demand to an entire aircraft.

The company
previously had been the first company to provide video-
on-demand to an airline, when Alitalia began offering its
system over a year ago.

"We're very
pleased to have achieved these goals," Interactive
Flight' s chairman and chief executive officer (CEO)
Michail Itkis said. Itkis noted his company also has been
accepted "as the preferred supplier to Qantas Airways for
their in-flight entertainment

The Interactive system features the largest
touch-screen displays ever installed in an aircraft cabin,
Itkis said, offering passengers quick and easy access
to up to twenty movies, 60 hours of music, several
computer games, and casino-style gaming from "virtual"
lotto, keno and video slot machines.

system also will continue to offer the Airshow
information about the progress of the flight that has proved
so popular with customers; with the added advantage
that the information, too, can now be followed up as
and when desired, Itkis

Following a trial phase in which passengers' responses to
and acceptance of the new system will be carefully
monitored, the system will be installed on all sixteen
MD-11s and five Boeing 747s that fly in Swissair' s
long-haul fleet.

"The IFT system offers our
passengers a whole raft of benefits," said Swissair Product
Manager Karl Laasner. "It's not just more comprehensive
than before; it also gives the user far more
individual choice."

The system will offer all
the facilities available on the current in-flight
entertainment program, including one movie, one video game and
the full music program, entirely free of

In First Class, additional movies will cost $7.95
each, and further video games will be available for
$5.00 per hour. All payments must be by credit card,
Itkis said, with Visa, Eurocard/MasterCard and American
Express being accepted.

The system also
offers passengers the opportunity to play games of
chance with cash prizes up to $3,500.00 and a maximum
loss of $200.00, for a maximum $1.00

In accordance with Swiss law, Laasner said, only
games such as lotto, keno and video slot machines are
offered. Casino games such as roulette and poker are not
available, he said. For legal reasons, games of chance will
not yet be offered on flights to and from the US,
Laasner added.

Laasner said the overall responsibility for monitoring games of chance, their rules of
play and Swissair's compliance will rest with the
Swiss National International Lottery Board. The board
will also receive all net profits remaining after
deductions of operating expenses, which will go into the
overall lottery fund, for allocation to various social
and cultural projects around the

(19970127/Press Contact: Adam Mazur, Rubenstein Public Relations,
212-843-8073. Reported by Newsbytes News Network:
Sat December 07 2002, 09:23 AM
A very interesting thread Barbara. The Laasner web site sure does studiously avoid mention of MD-11's, particularly in the line regarding the first installation of games of chance - he seems unable to choose between *all* the credit associated with the event, or none of it, preferring instead to claim the positive aspect and trust to the reader's inability to connect that with Swissair 111. It's a trait I notice in too many executives these days - and it has predictable results.

Would I buy a home from this man? Nope - nor a used car.

His ethics just aren't up to scratch.

Sat December 07 2002, 09:52 AM
Gerry, Look at this old post I found on the old sr111 board. It had been reported (I believe by van Beveren in the Swiss press) that Laasner had bought his shares in IFT AFTER the deal was signed by swissair with IFT to install the IFEN system. Stephen Thorne (excellent Canadian reporter)reported that Laasner bought the shares in IFT BEFORE the deal was signed. There was some back and forth about that on the old board and this is what we came up with:

Paul, Look at the following information regarding when the swissair/IFT deal was
signed. It contradicts the date of April 29th orginally thought to be the date this deal was
signed. Laasner bought his shares supposedly on April 30th if I remember correctly. I wonder
why different dates are being reported? If this May 1st date is true, then Stephen Thorne
is right, Laasner bought his shares before the deal was signed. Of course this
information could contain an error...but here it is along with the url. Here is the information,
once again thanks to someone who is nice enough to spend the time helping us with

entered into a
letter of intent with Swissair for the installation of
the Company's Entertainment Network
on sixteen (16) Swissair MD-11
aircraft and on five (5) B-747 aircraft commencing in
October, 1996. If
the arrangement is consummated, the Company will be responsible
installation, maintenance and periodic upgrades of the system and, in
return, will have the
exclusive right to operate video gaming on the
installed systems. The term of the proposed
agreement is to be seven (7)
years from the date of operation of the systems for each of the
aircraft and five (5) years for each of the B-747 aircraft. Video gaming
revenue would be
allocated first to reimburse Swissair for cargo loss,
cost of additional fuel consumption and
for the cleaning of handsets and
screens used in the Entertainment Networks and then to
the Company to
reimburse it for its investment in installing the systems and
maintenance costs. The parties have until July 31, 1996 to reach a
formal agreement
incorporating the terms outlined in the letter of
intent. If an agreement is not reached by
time, neither the Company nor Swissair will have any liability to


So in other words it looks as though Laasner probably bought his shares BEFORE the deal was signed contradicting what was originally reported.
If this is true, that would seem a bit unethical at least here in the U.S.
Sat December 07 2002, 10:17 AM
This is what Stephen Thorne said in his CP article:

The $80-million US deal
came shortly after Karl Laasner, the Swissair official
in charge of the project, bought 2,700 shares in
Interactive Flight Technologies for $30,000 US in April 1996. During the next few months the value of the
company more than doubled to $120 million US amid
speculation that Australia's Qantas would follow Swissair's
lead and install the system on its 48 long-haul jets. Swissair confirmed Laasner's share transactions,
first reported in a Swiss magazine article, but said it
concluded after an internal investigation that he had not
broken any rules.

van Beveren in his FACTS article said:

At this time Sair group was actually
already conducting an investigation {Laasner} against him. In
the meantime the investigation has been
completed. According to the communications director
Beatrice Tschantz "no illegal actions in this context" by
the airline employees have been proven. There was
no case of "insider-trading", which is forbidden
in Switzerland, since the purchase of the shares
took place after Swissair management had made the
decision to purchase the entertainment system April
29, 1996.

edited to add the following: Also from van Beveren's article:
Since then Laasner has confirmed
in writing to his employer that on April 30, 1996
He purchased a total of 2700 IFEN shares. Now look at the date on the letter of intent signed by swissair below.

The deal that swissair made with IFT appears to have been signed on May, 1st of 1996. See the thread on Translated van Beveren articles.

Consider this also from van Beveren's FACTs article:

"The whole IFEN circus was suspect to us" said
one SR employee, but every time they voiced their
reservations Laasner appeared and told them not to worry. It
is very interesting that it was always Laasner
who assuaged the concerns about IFEN. Soon he
got the nickname : "Mr. IFEN". All this happened after
Laasner had purchased stock in IFT. Was he trying to
influence business for his own enrichment? The fact is that
other than Swissair nobody else wanted to purchase
entertainment systems from IFT.
Sat December 07 2002, 10:55 AM
This might also be of interest to those of you following this thread, in light of the information that was provided recently regarding ILL (Interkantonale Landeslotterie) having possibly (at least according to my source)invested heavily in the IFEN.

Effective July 18, 1996, the Company entered into an
agreement with
Swissair to provide for delivery and
installation by the Company of
IFEN-2 systems on sixteen
Swissair MD-11 aircraft and five Swissair
aircraft. The Company will also provide various maintenance
operational services for the installed IFEN-2 systems.
Subject to
execution of an agreement with
Interkantonale Landeslotterie ("ILL"),
the operator of the
Swiss lottery based in Zurich, Switzerland,
IFEN-2 systems installed on Swissair aircraft will allow
passengers to
participate in various Swiss lottery games,
but are not expected to
allow use of the
traditional casino style gaming features such as
slots or
poker. In the event that no agreement is reached with
either Swissair or the Company may terminate the
Swissair Agreement.

Under the Swissair Agreement,
subject to the terms thereof, the Company
is entitled
to receive an aggregate of approximately $72 million
for the
IFEN-2 hardware, plus the costs of
installation and certain upgrades.
The Company will also be
reimbursed for its projected costs in
connection with
maintaining and operating the systems. However,
hardware purchase price and the operating expenses are
payable only out
of net revenues received from
passenger participation in the
aforementioned lottery
games. Further, the Company may receive
such amounts
only after Swissair is first reimbursed from the net

lottery revenues for certain expenses incurred in
connection with the
installation and operation of the
IFEN-2 systems. Any amounts remaining
after payment
of the Company's operating costs and the hardware
price will be paid over to ILL. The Company will also
receive a
percentage of revenues and commissions from
advertising and shopping
services available on the
installed IFEN-2 systems.
Sat December 07 2002, 11:42 AM
Thanks for the information Barbara.

It's perhaps odd that I don't particularly care whether it was a day or two earlier or later that he bought his shares. It would matter to the legal community - where the question of crossing a line depends on the legal definition of the line... But in the ethical arena, the question would be whether he had too much invested in the project to remain unbiased and objective regarding it's implementation and that would not have a date attached to it I believe.

I have felt for a long time now that industry executives have too much pressure on them to 'succeed regardless', without adding significant personal investment to further cloud their judgement.

I wonder why the boards involved in safety critical industries don't already recognize this and ask themselves whether they are willing to potentially risk the company on the judgement of an executive that may have too much at stake?

Seems like a question that might not be limited to safety critical industries - after thinking about Enron, Anderson, Worldcom and Swissair...
Fri June 20 2003, 09:43 PM
Photo of Karl Laasner known as 'Mr. IFEN' in Switzerland according to people at SrTechnics.