Tony Ryan

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Tony Ryan
Born(1936-02-02)2 February 1936
Died3 October 2007(2007-10-03) (aged 71)
Known forCo-founder of Ryanair, Part Owner of Tiger Airways multimillionaire and benefactor
Children3 (Declan, Shane and Cathal)

Thomas Anthony "Tony" Ryan (2 February 1936 – 3 October 2007) was an Irish billionaire, philanthropist and businessman.

Through his establishment of Guinness Peat Aviation in 1975 he began a course of events which ultimately led to the development of the international aircraft leasing industry, although he was best known in the public mind as the founder of the eponymous Ryanair with Christopher Ryan and Liam Lonergan.[1] Ryanair was believed to be the main source of his wealth in later life: the company is now one of the biggest airlines in Europe and is valued at over 15 billion Euros as of December 2019.[2]

Ryan held honorary doctorates from several universities, including Trinity College, Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick.[3][4]

Business career[edit]

Born in Thurles, County Tipperary, Ryan worked for Aer Lingus, before going on to found their aircraft leasing arm, wet-leasing out their aircraft in the quieter winter months.

In 1975, with Aer Lingus and the Guinness Peat Group, he founded Guinness Peat Aviation (later GPA Group), an aircraft leasing company, with a $50,000 investment.[5] GPA grew to be the world's biggest aircraft lessor, worth $4 billion at its peak. But its value dramatically collapsed in 1992 after the cancellation of its planned IPO.[6] Ryan made €55m from the sale of AerFi (the successor to GPA) in 2000.[7] Ryan was a tax exile who lived in Monte Carlo,[8] but also owned a stud farm near his home in Dolla County Tipperary.[5] He was the 7th wealthiest individual from Ireland in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 with over €1.5bn(£1bn).[9]

Ryan over the years helped nurture two successful business protégés – Denis O'Brien and Michael O'Leary – both of whom became billionaires.[10]


Ryan was an active and innovative funder of university education in Ireland. He donated a marine science institute to NUI Galway in 1993 which was named the Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute in honour of his father.[11] He showed interest in marine science and aquaculture development in the west of Ireland. He also funded The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the Citywest park, that is run by Dublin City University.[12][13]

In 2001, Ryan acquired Castleton Farm near Lexington, Kentucky from the Van Lennep Family Trust. Ryan renamed it Castleton Lyons and undertook renovations to the property while returning to its original roots as a thoroughbred operation.[14]

At the time of his death he owned 16% of Tiger Airways, a discount carrier based in Singapore which was founded in December 2003.[15][16]

Awards and Honors[edit]

  • 1994, Order of the Aztec Eagle[17]
  • 2002, Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement - presented at the International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland[18][19]
  • 2012, National Aviation Award - the inaugural award was presented to his family by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar[20]


Ryan, who lived at Lyons Demesne in Ardclough, County Kildare, died on 3 October 2007, aged 71, following an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He had other homes in London, Castleton Lyons stud in Kentucky, Château Lascombes near Bordeaux and on Ibiza.[21] His eldest son, Cathal, died just three months later, aged 48, after being diagnosed with cancer.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tony Ryan: Founder of Ryanair, the budget carrier which transformed European air travel". The Sunday Times. London: News Intl. 3 October 2007. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Ryanair Holdings PLC". Bloomberg.
  3. ^ "Visionary whose passion for business took off -". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  4. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "FACTBOX - Ryanair founder Tony Ryan". U.K. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Tony Ryan: wizard of the skies". Royal Irish Academy. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ "GPA soared before crash-landing -". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Tony Ryan to pocket $47m as former GPA sold off -". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  8. ^ News, Bloomberg. "Tony Ryan, Who Founded Discount Airline, Dies at 71". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Declan and Shane Ryan and family". The Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  10. ^ Independent Woman. "Ireland's Rich List: 31–40". Irish Independent.
  11. ^ "Over €1m donated for marine and energy research". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  12. ^ "About Us - Ryan Academy". Ryan Academy. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. ^ Colley, Elaine. "Official Opening of the Tony Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the Citywest Business Park on Monday, 24 October, 2005". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Castleton Lyons | Thoroughbred OwnerView – Thoroughbred Owners, Thoroughbred Trainers, Thoroughbred Partnerships, Thoroughbred Retirement". Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Tiger Airways offers low-cost flights from Singapore". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  16. ^ Adeney, Martin (5 October 2007). "Obituary: Tony Ryan". the Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Tony Ryan: wizard of the skies". The Royal Irish Academy.
  18. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  19. ^ "The Summit". American Academy of Achievement.
  20. ^ "National Aviation Award honours founder of Ryanair". Irish Times.
  21. ^ "1936 – Birth of Tony Ryan, aviation entrepreneur, in Co. Tipperary". Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland. 2 February 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Cathal Ryan (48), son of Ryanair founder, passes away". The Irish Times. 12 December 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Aldous, Richard (30 August 2013). Tony Ryan: Ireland's Aviator. Gill & Macmillan Ltd. ISBN 9780717157839.