Porter Airlines founder Robert Deluce is stepping down as president and chief executive officer of the Toronto-based carrier, handing leadership duties to his son.
Mr. Deluce launched the airline in 2006 at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport with a fleet of planes that has increased to 29 Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplanes flying to 23 cities.
“We started with two airplanes and one destination, Ottawa,” Mr. Deluce said by phone on Wednesday.
Porter employs 1,500 people and has the rights to 172 of the 202 daily arrival and departure slots from the island airport, whose popularity lies in its proximity to downtown Toronto.
In an interview on Wednesday, he called the shuffle a significant one that will help the airline increase its operations at the Toronto hub. Some of that growth will come through the expected addition of U.S. customs preclearance for passengers, he said.
“We have an exceptionally talented management team and this is an opportunity for them to evolve with me still playing an active role,” said Mr. Deluce, a native of Northern Ontario who was in high school when he learned to fly at the airfield then known as Toronto Island Airport.
“It’ll be a continuation of the already proven strategy that has resulted in us being able to survive and thrive in a competitive environment. Clearly, there will be some changes over time but I think for the most part it’s steady as she goes.”
Porter said in a statement on Wednesday new CEO Michael Deluce has been with the airline since its launch and, as chief commercial officer, was responsible for the company’s business plan and brand strategies.
“This transition sees Robert become further involved at the board level, while allowing Michael and other senior leaders to oversee daily business activities. It is a combination of diverse experience and expertise that will serve Porter well in meeting our needs today,” Don Carty, Porter’s chairman, said in a news release.
When it launched, Porter was 43-per-cent owned by Mr. Deluce’s Regco Capital Corp. Other investors include pension fund OMERS, EdgeStone Capital Partners and Dancap Private Equity, Mr. DeLuce said, declining to elaborate on the share structure. On two occasions, The Globe and Mail has reported investors were seeking an initial public offering of the company, but the airline remains in private hands.
“I am one of a number of shareholders. All of the same shareholders who were here on day one remain here going on 13 years,” he said.
In 2015, Porter sold its airport terminal to a group of investors backed by AGF Management, reportedly fetching $700-million in a deal that helped the airline slash its debt.