I knew I was asking for trouble as soon as I produced my non-comprehensive list of aviation folks included in Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires. So here’s a couple of additions.
The obvious howler was not picking up Steven Udvar-Hazy, who Forbes credits with $2.4 billion, and whose life is an inspiration to everyone in aviation. After creating International Lease Finance (ILFC) with a reputed $150,000 plus a $1.7 billion bank loan, he sold it to AIG, continued to run it, and built it into the leasing colossus it is today. Famously, he found $66 million to create the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air & Space Museum.
Around the time ILFC was becoming what it is now, an Irish entrepreneur called Tony Ryan was creating Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) in Europe. That didn’t end so happily and it essentially disappeared into ILFC rival GECAS, but Ryan and his family have done just fine out of aviation, most recently through their interest in Ryanair. Forbes doesn’t mention Ryan, but in the UK he has been reported as having a fortune in the region of 1 billion. His interests are tied-up with his family, however, and it’s hard to tell. But he could well join Udvar-hazy in the select breed of true aviation billionaires.
My colleague Nick Ionides in Singapore also mentions Naresh Goyal, the founding owner of India’s Jet Airways which is now expanding into an international carrier. Goyal has interests in other forms of transport, but Forbes puts his fortune at $1.5 billion and it seems that most of it is from his airline. He’s so well-liked we’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt!