Millionaires row as Cullen slates 'cynical' O'Leary in verbal volley
'Apprentice' boss claims hangar 6 debacle revealed Ryanair chief's 'ruthless and unpatriotic' nature
Published 28/02/2010 | 05:00
IT'S the battle between two of Ireland's most high-profile tycoons. Millionaire entrepreneur Bill Cullen has labelled Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary a "ruthless" businessman with "no integrity" in a blistering attack on the wealthy high-flier.
The high-profile former Renault boss, who is a board member of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), accused Mr O'Leary of being unpatriotic and money driven following the airline boss's handling of the hangar 6 debacle.
He also told an audience of hundreds of students and staff attending a motivational lecture at NUI Maynooth -- including the president of the University, Professor John G Hughes: "My mother had more balls than he ever had. She would make mincemeat out of Michael O'Leary. She would chew him up and spit him out."
Mr Cullen's comments come as a storm of controversy continues to rage over the potential loss of 300 jobs at the former SR Technics plant in Dublin airport. Mr O'Leary is adamant he can save the jobs if hangar 6 is handed over to him in the next two weeks. But Mr Cullen, who is the star of TV3's hit show The Apprentice, said Mr O'Leary's only motivation is to humiliate the Government while he makes money for his airline. "Without a doubt I think he is ruthless, he is cynical and he has no integrity," he said.
"It's all about publicity and ego. He might dress down. He might wear the jeans and the oul' shirt and have the oul' cup of coffee in his hand and all that stuff but that's all an act. He has a huge ego."
The rags-to-riches entrepreneur, who has been a non-executive director of the DAA for the past five years, also questioned Mr. O'Leary's patriotism.
"Why couldn't he have kept those couple of hundred jobs here instead of telling everybody in the country: 'I've given 200 jobs to Scotland.' Now what sort of an Irishman is that?
"He wanted to kick us in the ass. He basically said: 'Right, so now I'm after giving 200 jobs away and I've 300 more. Do yez want them or don't yez?'
"It obviously wasn't very patriotic. Unfortunately the 'bottom line' is all that counts for Michael. He's very successful financially. But there's more to life than that, such as people. Look at how he treats his suppliers, look at how he treats his customers, look at how he treats his staff. It's his way or the door. That's the way Michael works."
Mr Cullen added: "You can't deal with Michael. You work with his other executives and we do work with them and we have our committee guys go to meet them on a regular basis. But it's very hard to get any co-operation from them. Everything you try to get done it's always: 'No No, No.' It's very difficult."
The motor boss also warned Mr O'Leary to remember who gave Ryanair its first kick start, stressing that the egotistical chief executive has a lot to thank the Government for.
"The thing you have to remember about Ryanair is that they wouldn't be in business if it wasn't for the Government. It was the late Seamus Brennan that gave them their licence to fly and take on Aer Lingus. Without the Government, who brought all that on and wanted to make sure there was no monopoly, there would be no Ryanair.
"Now he wants to be the monopoly. He said openly on the radio that he wanted to kill Aer Arann. Imagine saying that about Padraig O'Ceidigh, who is a lovely man? That's the way he does business."
However, Mr Cullen did offer the airline chief an olive branch, and offered to meet him in the near future. "I've never really dealt with him on a one-to-one basis but I wouldn't mind that because he and I would have the same DNA and I would like to think it might happen sooner rather than later.
"I've been on the board of the DAA for five years now so I'm the senior non-executive director. In that context -- working with David Dilger, the chairman -- we could sit down with Michael anytime. Provided he is not playing games. But if he wants to play games I could play games too. I wouldn't have a problem taking him on."
Mr Cullen, who earns €14,000 a year as part of his work for the DAA, donates his salary to the Irish Youth Foundation. "I'm on the authority because I thought I could make a difference. We've got Terminal 2 built and Michael says it's a joke, because, while he puts up sheds, we put up something that the country can be proud of. We have huge plans for the whole thing which maybe he might want to disrupt."
Before jetting off to Istanbul to celebrate his birthday this weekend with life-partner Jackie Lavin and their friends, Mr Cullen, the author of It's A Long Way From Penny Apples, told the students how he achieved phenomenal success.
Speaking about the "woe is me" attitude of today's so-called Celtic cubs, he said: "Young people have been mollycoddled by their parents. They need to stop whingeing and moaning.
"It's all down to the parents to instill this into them. Don't just hand out money. They have to know that it's hard to come by and they have to learn that they have to go out and make it."
Referring to the growing unemployment figures, he said: "Let's look at young people coming out of school, who can't get a job so they go on the dole. If you get a job for the same amount of money as the dole pays, would you go and do it?
"Yes, should be the answer. Even if you get paid less than the dole you'll learn skills that you can't get if you're not working. We're paying people not to work in many cases.
"If you're a young person under the age of 25 and there isn't work here for you, then emigrate rather than go on the dole. Go find a job somewhere."
The 68-year-old motoring entrepreneur, who recently published Golden Apples: Six Simple Steps To Success to critical acclaim,
also ruled out reports that he will stand for Dublin mayor
"Jackie says she's not moving in to a smaller house," he quipped.
"It sounds lovely and it seems great but you're back to the old story where your hands are tied. Is there really going to be a budget? Is it really going to be dictated by a government party or not? Will you be independent? I am definitely saying no.
"I think politics is maybe one of the most difficult places to succeed in.
"Now, if I was a dictator that would be fine.
"But if you wanted to make things happen the other way it would be impossible. It's the old saying: the camel is a horse designed by a committee."