Tony Ryan, 71; founded Ryanair, Europe’s top budget airline, in 1985

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Tony Ryan, 71, an Irish entrepreneur who founded Europe’s leading budget airline Ryanair, died Wednesday near Dublin after a long illness, the airline and his family said.

Ryan founded Ryanair in 1985 with a single 15-seat plane. By the time he floated the company on the Irish and British stock exchanges, Ryanair Holdings was expanding across the European continent with eye-popping fares, new routes and trademark boastful marketing. Today it operates 557 routes in 26 countries and plans to carry more than 50 million people this year.

Ryan, the son of a train driver, was born in Thurles, County Tipperary, in 1936. His first job was as a sales clerk at Aer Lingus, Ireland’s state-owned airline, which saw its monopoly status shattered by the launch and rapid ascent of Ryanair.

His initial fortune came from Guinness Peat Aviation, a commercial aircraft sales and leasing company.


He died with a personal fortune estimated at more than $1.1 billion and was seventh on the 2007 Sunday Times list of Ireland’s richest people. He remained a major Ryanair stockholder and was a minority owner of Singapore-based Tiger Airways.

He lived as a tax exile in Monte Carlo but maintained a country estate and horse stud farm in Tipperary.