Thomas Anthony “Tony” Ryan (2 February 1936 – 3 October 2007) was an Irish multi-millionaire, philanthropist and businessman.
He was a founder of Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) as well as co-founder of Ryanair with Christy Ryan and Liam Lonergan. 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 several billion euros.
Ryan was believed to have a personal fortune ranging between €800m and €1bn. He held honorary doctorates from several universities, including Trinity College, Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick.
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, he founded GPA, the Commercial Aircraft Sales and Leasing company which he set up in 1975 with $50,000. The company grew to be worth $4 billion at its peak but its value dramatically collapsed in 1992 after the cancellation of its planned IPO. Ryan made €55m from the sale of AerFi (the successor to GPA) in 2000. Ryan was a tax exile who lived in Monte Carlo, but also owned a stud farm near his home in Newmarket, County Tipperary. He was the 7th wealthiest individual from Ireland in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 with over €1.5bn(£1bn).
Ryan over the years helped nurture two successful business protégés – Denis O’Brien and Michael O’Leary – both of whom became multi-millionaires.
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. He showed a great 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.
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.
At the time of his death he owned 16% of Tiger Airways, a discount carrier based in Singapore which was founded in December 2003.
Ryan, who lived at Lyons House 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. His eldest son, Cathal, died just three months later, aged 48, after being diagnosed with cancer.