Business Irish

Friday 23 March 2018

Where are they now?: John Burke


JOHN Burke became head of Aer Rianta just before it was hit by a multi-million euro hole in its profits.

Joining Aer Lingus straight after school in 1964, he first worked in reservations and schedules control. He moved in 1969 to Aer Rianta, the body newly charged with running Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports. He headed up Aer Rianta's strategic planning section from 1984. He became deputy chief executive in 1996 and then CEO in 1998.

A year later, the cash cow that was duty free was eliminated in Europe, wiping out €40m net from Aer Rianta's annual bottom line. It redirected into the duty-free business elsewhere, including Moscow, the Middle East, US and Canada, becoming the biggest duty-free operator in the world. It also invested in Birmingham Airport, which later sold for a major profit.

The Aviation Regulation Act in 2001 would hand over ownership of the three airports to Aer Rianta. Burke oversaw a major restructuring and redundancies.

Meanwhile, Ireland was on the cusp of the boom and airport traffic and revenues were growing. Preparations were made for the spinning off of Shannon and Cork airports, the setting up of the Dublin Airport Authority, and the selling off of the Great Southern Hotels business. The airports' break-up never happened.

Burke retired at the end of his five-year contract in 2003. He now runs his own business performance consultancy business, Burke Consult.

Sunday Independent

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