Vancouver Airport Authority CEO Craig Richmond to retire in mid-2020

Richmond was Business in Vancouver’s 2019 CEO of the year for running a not-for-profit company

Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Craig Richmond has been in his post since September 2013 | Rob Kruyt

The Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA) will soon be getting a new president and CEO thanks to current president and CEO Craig Richmond announcing November 25 that he plans to retire on June 30, 2020.

Richmond will have been steering the body that operates Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for almost seven years.

No one has yet been chosen to replace Richmond, and the VAA’s board of directors plans to retain a global search firm to recruit the next president and CEO.

Richmond has won kudos for his success at expanding passenger traffic at YVR, and he was Business in Vancouver’s 2019 CEO of the year for running a not-for-profit company.

“I have so much pride in what we’ve accomplished together,” said Richmond in a release. “We grew passenger volumes by 50%, we embarked on the most ambitious capital plan in the airport’s history, we created meaningful partnerships within the community – and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

He hailed the “exceptional team” at the airport, where he estimated that about 26,500 employees work, and said that he knows that he is leaving the airport in “steady, courageous and creative hands.”

The high-pressure life of an executive was almost not his calling, given that his original plan was to be a military man.

In the 1980s, he spent five and a half years in West Germany as part of the Canadian Air Force, working with NATO troops and flying F-104s and F-18s to prepare for a potential Soviet strike.

The end of the Cold War seemed to be a clean bookend for what, in 1990, was a 10-year military career.

He completed a BA and an MBA at the University of Manitoba and found a temporary post as a consultant at VAA.

Then came a job as manager of airside operations.

A few months after Larry Berg replaced David Emerson as VAA's CEO, in 1998, Berg gave the then-37-year-old Richmond his first executive role: vice-president of operations.

“Craig was very capable under difficult circumstances,” former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt told BIV in 2013. Harcourt was on the VAA board between 1998 and 2004. “He had to manage what happened with all those flights diverted from the U.S., the planes on the aprons and all the thousands of passengers who had to be taken care of and billeted on September 11 [2001].”

Richmond left Vancouver in 2006 for what sounded like a dream job: CEO of the Nassau Airport Development Co. in the Bahamas.

VAA’s then-50%-owned subsidiary Vantage Airport Group had snagged a contract to send a management team to what is now Lynden Pindling International Airport, near Nassau, and Richmond was tapped for the top job.

Four years later, he moved on to be CEO of three airports in England: Liverpool John Lennon, Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield and Durham Tees Valley. In early 2013, he became CEO of the Larnaka International and Pafos International airports in Cyprus. He then settled into his post at Vancouver International Airport in September 2013.

“Craig has led YVR through a period of unprecedented growth all while ensuring that we delivered on our mandate, as a not-for-profit community-based organization, to provide social and economic benefits to the region,” said Annalisa King, chair of VAA’s board of directors in a release.

She added that he has been recognized locally and within the industry as a champion of "reconciliation, accessibility, sustainability and diversity.”

Accomplishments in Richmond’s term include:

•ushering in a new Strategic Plan that set a course for achieving rapid passenger and airline growth;

•developing YVR’s 20-year roadmap;

•overseeing the creation of the historic sustainability and friendship agreement between the Musqueam Indian Band and the VAA – something that was touted at the time as potentially a template for other regional organizations; and

•receiving the Skytrax award for best airport in North America for ten years in a row – something no other airport has ever done.