A new biography of GPA and Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, one of Tipperary’s most famous sons, haas been launched.
Tony Ryan: Ireland’s Aviator is the story of a single-minded young man from Tipperary who went on to be one of Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs. The book was launched in Dublin at the Lir Theatre at the National Academy of Dramatic Art in the Trinity Technology Enterprise Centre with the author Richard Aldous present as well as members of the Ryan family and well-known names from Ireland’s aviation industry, including Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary.
The biography traces the emergence of Ryan’s entrepreneurial spirit, from his first job as a traffic assistant for Aer Lingus at Shannon airport, to the highs and lows of a career that saw him build two businesses that transformed international aviation and accumulate a vast personal fortune.
Following his death in October 2007, Ryan was lauded for his immense contribution to the Irish economy but Ryan came close to losing everything in 1992 when GPA, his airline leasing company, famously imploded. Ryanair, the small airline he set up in the 1980s, provided an escape route. He put his assistant Michael O’Leary in charge and the rest is history.
Born in Limerick Junction in Co. Tipperary, it may have been not much more than a small village, but it was famous throughout Ireland and beyond and author Richard Aldous saw Ryan’s birthplace as a key factor in Ryan’s eventual success.
‘Co. Tipperary from the 1930s onwards may not have been an obvious place for ideas of global entrepreneurship to be germinated. But that is to underestimate the impact of the nearby Shannon Airport, Co. Clare, on the young Tony Ryan. Not only did it offer the chance of a decent job during times of profound economic hardship but it also had an intense effect on his imagination. Shannon said, ‘Go see the world.’ The very existence of Shannon Airport seemed to imply that there could be another Ireland to dream of’.
When Tony made his fortune from GPA, his airline leasing company, he bought Kilboy House in North Co. Tipperary. These touchstones meant that, however far and often he travelled, Tony remained rooted in the terrain of his youth.
Even at his funeral Michael O’Leary remarked that Tony was not without his faults and even his failures, saying: ‘Tony Ryan wasn’t perfect; he wasn’t always right,’ he reminded everyone, ‘Tipperary is not the centre of the universe.’
Although he later settled at Lyons Demesne in Kildare, friends and family remarked that it was predictably near the N7 road to Tipperary! Ryan even wanted to call Ryanair ‘Trans Tipperary’ originally!
Tony lived lavishly and elegantly and was a larger than life character who only knew how to play high risk. This often had disastrous consequences, but his tenacity and determination to succeed are the real lessons of this book and as the nation strives for recovery Tony Ryan’s story is an inspirational one.