30 May 2024

Airport visionary Terry Snow retires from active management roles

| Ian Bushnell
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Airport and property development tycoon Terry Snow: “We have transformed our vision into a reality for this city, and it is something of which I am incredibly proud.” Photo: Canberra Airport.

Canberra billionaire businessman and philanthropist Terry Snow is stepping aside as executive chairman of Canberra Airport and the Capital Property Group, 26 years after acquiring the airport from the Commonwealth.

Mr Snow, who has not been well, will hand over the reins to the next generation, with son Stephen Byron remaining as Airport and Group CEO and his other son Tom Snow taking over as chair of the Airport board.

His worth varies between $2 billion and $4 billion, depending on the rich list.

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His retirement at age 80 comes after 50 years in the Canberra development industry, initially working with his father Bob and brother George, and realising his vision of creating an airport befitting the national capital.

The Federal Government sold the airport to Mr Snow’s Capital Airport Group in 1998 for $65 million, marking the start of major redevelopment projects, particularly between 2009 and 2013 when new road systems, car park aprons, and a completely new terminal were delivered.

Mr Snow invested over $2 billion in aviation, commercial and retail infrastructure to grow the airport precinct into a modern, sophisticated transportation and business hub.

But his development ambitions at the airport often rubbed up against the ACT Government and planners who saw him establishing a rival centre to the city.

Now, though, his work is part of the economic fabric of Canberra.

The former sheep paddocks boast the bustling Brindabella Business Park and the retail precinct of Majura Park, while the historic Fairbairn base has been rejuvenated, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration headquarters the most recent facility developed.

The more than 35 new buildings are home to major government agencies, including the Australian Border Force headquarters, the Australian CyberSecurity Centre, the Defence Science Technology Organisation (including the Chief Defence Scientist), the TGA and the Australian Signals Directorate headquarters.

Terry Snow discusses the development with Stephen Byron. Photo: Charlotte Harper

Terry Snow discusses the Denman Prospect development on site with Stephen Byron in 2017. Photo: File.

“Looking back from what was literally a humble tin shed in a paddock in 1998 to what we have today, our journey is a testament to our unwavering commitment and passion for quality and excellence,” Mr Snow said.

“We have transformed our vision into a reality for this city, and it is something of which I am incredibly proud.”

Mr Snow said this accomplishment owed much to his family’s unwavering support and dedication and exceptional staff.

“This airport is as much theirs as it is mine,” he said.

“Our staff have worked tirelessly, demonstrating remarkable dedication, persistence, and a commitment to my pursuit for excellence.

“They have much to do in the future, but their steadfast commitment to this task and to our city remains absolute. I am deeply grateful for their hard work and congratulate them on a job well done.

“The legacy we have built together will continue to thrive and serve our community for years to come.”

Mr Snow championed aviation competition, the growth of new domestic routes, and the first-ever regular international services into Canberra – from Singapore with Singapore Airlines, closely followed by Qantas flights to Doha.

Beyond the airport, Mr Snow’s property arm is transforming the city centre and developing an entire suburb.

In the city, it developed the award-winning Constitution Place development, an urban precinct that brings together government and private offices, a hotel, laneway retail, and public spaces.

Capital Property Group will develop the current Law Courts car park on the key corner of Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit into a four-building mixed-use precinct after buying the 11,381 square metre site from the ACT Government for $53 million last year.

Terry Snow and Andrew Barr

Last year, Terry Snow won the Canberra Philanthropy Award, presented by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, for his “Outstanding lifetime dedication to improving the lives of those in need”. Photo: Snow Foundation.

It also acquired a vacant block of land next to Constitution Place on Vernon Circle from the ACT Government for $17.75 million where a $150 million six-level office building is planned.

Mr Snow grasped the opportunity to create and shape an entire suburb – including retail, parkland, playgrounds, and community amenities – at Denman Prospect in the Molonglo Valley.

It is the first entire suburb in Australia to have rooftop solar on every house. It was also the first large-scale project to support the Homes 4 Homes social and affordable housing initiative.

Mr Snow has been happy to give away his money through a range of philanthropic pursuits.

He and his brother George founded the Snow Foundation in 1991, now led by Terry’s daughter Georgina Byron.

The Foundation has become one of the largest philanthropic organisations in Australia, funding more than 400 organisations and 420 individuals. In 2022-23, it gave away $10 million; since its inception, it has given away more than $50 million.

This year, it provided $1 million towards the establishment of the not-for-profit Tender Funerals, which will provide tailored, low-cost funeral services.

In 2019, Mr Snow founded the Snow Medical Research Foundation under the leadership of Tom Snow. With a commitment now totalling $220 million, Snow Medical supports the development of biomedical research leaders and their teams, driving innovation and excellence in healthcare solutions for the future.

He also has been a generous supporter of his alma mater, Canberra Grammar School, providing $8 million towards The Snow Centre for Education in the Asian Century and $20 million to create a centre for music excellence, the Snow Concert Hall.

Mr Snow’s interests extend to horses, and in 2017, he opened Willinga Park, an award-winning, 810-hectare equine facility at Bawley Point on the South Coast. It included an equestrian centre with three Olympic-sized dressage arenas, showjumping fields and a camp drafting arena.

Terry Snow at Willinga Park

Terry Snow at his Willinga Park equine facility at Bawley Point on the South Coast. Photo: Melissa Evans.

While Mr Snow has achieved much, he sees his work as an unfinished project.

“While we still have a long way to go before reaching our full potential, we have set the template for the next 30 or 40 years under the leadership of Stephen Byron, the CEO,” he said.

Mr Byron said the business was immensely grateful for Mr Snow’s leadership, unwavering commitment to excellence, and visionary thinking.

He said it had been a privilege to witness the development of the best little airport in the world.

“His legacy is not only in the remarkable developments but also in the people who make up our organisation,” Mr Byron said.

“His passion for our city, his hometown, and his country’s national capital, as well as his belief in giving people a chance, have always been his mantra.”

Mr Byron said this philosophy had allowed the business to build an incredible culture, creating a team that was second to none.

“We are firmly set up for the many opportunities ahead of us, and there is much to do, not only at Canberra Airport, Denman Prospect, but also in our other projects, including developing two new sites in the city centre.”

Mr Snow is married to Ginette, and as well as Stephen, Georgina, and Tom, there is another daughter, Scarlet.

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old canberran3:55 pm 31 May 24

And it all started with a clothing shop on a corner of the Sydney building owned ny his parents.

Jennifer Angelatos3:05 pm 31 May 24

Happy retirement Mr Snow,
Such an incredible lifetime of achievements & legacy’s for our Capitals landscape. I watched in anticipation as my son worked on the Canberra Grammar Schools centre for music excellence with familiarity, in that it was also his school once. So many achievements of excellence in your home town to city..
Thank you.

Snow job till the end.

Top individual. Wishing him well.

Margaret Freemantle1:57 pm 30 May 24

So very grateful for all Mr Snow has done for Canberra. Let’s hope his sons are as smart. His wealth has been earned and his foundation a fabulous legacy

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