For a small country, Ireland has established itself over the years as a hub of global aviation activity. Declan Ryan has been at the forefront; along with his late father Tony, the entrepreneur was co-founder of Irish low-cost airline, Ryanair. He went on to hold several senior management positions there – including CEO – and was on the board from 1986-2004.
Declan went on to found successful airline developer Irelandia Aviation, basing this new business on the same low-cost model that had seen Ryanair flourish. “There’s huge provenance and heritage behind Dublin”, he has said. “Because of GPA [Guinness Peat Aviation; a company set up by his dad], which became the trailblazer in aircraft leasing, 50% of all airplanes leased in the world are through Dublin, which is fantastic for Ireland.”
Last year, Irelandia expanded into Central and South America, launching a new airline in Peru. The group has previously invested in low-cost carriers like Singapore-based Tigerair, Viva Aerobús in Mexico and Viva Colombia.
Aside from this astute business sense, Ryan is a generous philanthropist. In 2004, he co-founded the One Foundation; Ireland’s first venture philanthropy fund. Investment beneficiaries include Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, youth mental health network Headstrong, and children’s charity Barnardos.