(CNN)In a shock to the world of horse racing, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has announced he is winding up his Gigginstown House Stud racing and bloodstock operation and quitting the sport.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary to quit horse racing over five years
The Irish businessman has invested vast sums in jump racing and become one of the dominant owners over the last decade, but he said in a surprise statement Tuesday he intends to spend more time with his wife and four children as they become teenagers.
O'Leary's Gigginstown operation owns hundreds of horses stabled among some of Ireland's top trainers, including Gordon Elliott who saddled his Tiger Roll to a second straight Grand National triumph at Aintree in April.
"We wish to sincerely thank all our trainers and their teams for the enormous success we've enjoyed over the past decade," said the 58-year-old O'Leary, who built his fortune from the Ireland-based no-frills airline Ryanair.
"But as my children are growing into teenagers I am spending more and more of my time at their activities and I have less and less time for National Hunt racing, a situation that will continue for the foreseeable future.
"I hope that by running down our string over an extended four or five-year period it will give our trainers ample time to replace our horses without disruption."
The famous maroon and white colors of Gigginstown horses have triumphed in some of jump racing's top events, including two Cheltenham Gold Cups and three Grand Nationals among nearly 100 Grade One victories.
O'Leary has also sponsored some big races over the years, including the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and the economic impact of his withdrawal could significantly affect Irish racing, particularly in terms of jobs in the yards deprived of Gigginstown horses.
The former accountant is worth $968 million, according to the 2019 Sunday Times Irish Rich List.