Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, GECAS’s origins can be traced back to 1965 when US conglomerate General Electric created its GE Credit (GECC) arm. By the early 1970s, GECC had built up a small portfolio acquiring in-service aircraft and leasing them back to the US major airlines.
Meanwhile in 1975, Aer Lingus executive Tony Ryan and London-based financial services company Guinness Peat Group set up an aircraft leasing business in Shannon, Ireland. Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) grew steadily throughout the 1980s until 1990, by which time it had become the world’s largest leasing company, with 309 owned/managed aircraft and another 500 on order. But the airline industry suffered in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, and lessors took their share of the pain as they endured their first recession.
After an initial public offering failed to take off, GPA was thrown into turmoil as it could no longer fund its huge operations amid spiralling debts. A rescue deal was agreed, whereby GE acquired a large part of GPA’s portfolio and took on its staff, including co-founder and chairman Ryan.
Completed in November 1993, this deal allowed GECAS to emerge from the embers with a combined portfolio. GECAS has gone from strength to strength and sits at the top of the lessor rankings with a total fleet of 1,742 aircraft and a backlog of 285, head-and-shoulders above its closest rival, International Lease Finance Corp.