Manchester Airport plc was formed in 1986, coinciding with the abolition of the Greater Manchester Council under local government reorganisation.
The Local Government Act 1985 abolished such councils and the government were considering selling their assets, which included municipally-held airports.
The company was planned by the leaders of the ten Manchester local councils who met and set up a shadow board with the aim of maintaining local authority control of the north west's major airport.
Manchester City Council, Salford City Council and the eight metropolitan borough councils (Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford, Tameside and Wigan) who were to inherit Greater Manchester Council's half share of the airport following abolition, were concerned that the airport, after operating successfully within a local authority since 1938, might be privatised and lose its international gateway status and thus have a detrimental effect on the region's economy.
Although a new airport company had to be created, town clerks and other experts within Greater Manchester explored setting up their choice of company before the Airports Act 1986 became law. Thus Manchester Airport plc was formed, a unique company in that all the shares in the public limited company are local authority owned.
Following the purchase of a majority shareholding in Humberside Airport in 1999, and the acquisition of East Midlands and Bournemouth Airports in 2001, the company was restructured to create the Manchester Airport Group. This ensured that the business continued to grow and operate efficiently within a more focused environment and created an organisation capable of taking full advantage of the enormous growth opportunities in the aviation industry. The restructuring has had no effect on the ownership of the company.
Although Manchester Airport Group is registered as a public limited company its shares are not quoted or for sale on the Stock Exchange. Manchester City Council has a majority shareholding (55%) with each of the remaining nine councils, including Salford, holding 5%.
The city council receives a dividend from Manchester Airport Group but funds are not earmarked to be spent on any particular purpose.
The dividend is remitted to the council's revenue budget and helps to keep down the council's net expenditure.