Anthony Gurnee has been a fixture in the shipping media for decades, having experienced more than most in a varied maritime career.

At a youthful-looking 64, the American citizen has decided to retire as chief executive of Ardmore Shipping, the tanker company he founded in Ireland in 2010.

But Gurnee was already well known in shipping circles before then.

The graduate of the US Naval Academy served as a surface line officer in the US navy, including a tour with naval intelligence, in a stint lasting from 1981 to 1989.

From there he made the switch to shipping finance with Citigroup and Nedship Bank, before joining tanker group Teekay Corp in 1992.

He was finance chief there for five years, overseeing Teekay Shipping’s IPO in 1995.

He subsequently became chief operating officer of chemical carrier company MTM Group and then CEO of Industrial Shipping Enterprises, which had chemical tankers together with boxships.

By 2010, Gurnee, through his Seacove Shipping Partners advisory boutique, had been eyeing a return to the physical shipping markets for some time.

TradeWinds revealed his new venture Ardmore to the world that year, under the headline “Gurnee starts tanker outfit.”

He told TradeWinds in 2017: “By early 2010 we felt it was the right time to start.

Friends old and new

“By that point we had done a lot of work and decided we liked the medium and long-term outlook of the product tanker sector the most. We had a fairly clear plan right from the start and, given I had a background in chemicals, we decided to make that part of the mix as well.”

Gurnee turned to Greenbriar Equity Group boss Regg Jones — whom he had worked with on the Teekay IPO when Jones was at Goldman Sachs — to help set up Ardmore in Ireland.

The pair had initially looked at opportunities in the early 2000s but by 2003 felt the market was running away from them and opted to wait.

They stayed on the sidelines through the boom years of the mid-to-late noughties and only when the music stopped after the financial crisis of 2008 did they sit down together again.

Ireland was not then, and is not now, renowned as a centre for commercial shipping.

Gurnee had first moved there with his family when he was 12.

“I more or less grew up here, went away for a long time, joined the US Navy, saw the world, then got into banking and shipping,” he told TradeWinds in Cork.

He returned in the 2000s, with his Danish wife, Marianne, “to give our kids an international experience and have a bit of fun”.

When Ardmore was launched, Gurnee was willing to go anywhere in the world.

But Greenbriar had extensive experience of Ireland as a location for financial leasing in the aviation industry.

Staying in Ireland

“They said, ‘We are very comfortable with Ireland; if you want to stay there, go ahead’. That is how it all began,” Gurnee recalled.

“We have been able to attract really terrific people. That’s the most important reason. There is no tax angle. Being an hour from London is key.”

Mark Cameron, the Irishman whom Gurnee recruited from Teekay as Ardmore’s commercial chief, has previously said the work-life balance is also an important component. “You are able to get something here that you are not able to get in London,” he told TradeWinds.

Gurnee said at the time: “We felt it would be good to build the business from somewhere in Europe and this happens to be where I have been living for the last five years.”

The biggest deal for Ardmore came in 2016, when six MR tankers were bought from John Fredriksen’s Frontline.

The $172.5m transaction was supported by a $64m equity issue at a time when many experts believed the capital markets were closed to shipping.

“That was an example where we were able to move quickly when we saw an opportunity. We had been in discussion on those ships for two years. Obviously they evolved over time and we had to wait for the right moment to execute,” Gurnee said.

“We always try to do business in a way that if things do not go to plan, you can always come back to it on good terms. We did that several times with those ships. It probably also helped that we had a working relationship with Frontline commercially.”

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