News Thomas Molloy

Sunday 4 December 2016

Mueller deserves his €1.5m pay because he saved Aer Lingus

Published 03/05/2014 | 02:30

Christoph Mueller, Aer Lingus CEO, (centre) with Aer Lingus cabin crew Lesley Murphy and Grainne Frawley. Photo: Sean Curtin
Christoph Mueller, Aer Lingus CEO, (centre) with Aer Lingus cabin crew Lesley Murphy and Grainne Frawley. Photo: Sean Curtin

Most of us try to make a good fist of our job, while knowing that somebody else could probably do it just as well. Even a prime minister or chief executive is usually aware that there are dozens of people waiting in the wings with equal ability.

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Just sometimes, the reverse is true. Winston Churchill was no run-of-the-mill prime minister and may well have been unusual enough to embody the difference between Britain winning and losing World War II. For that, the present queen offered to make him the Duke of London and give him an enormous income. No other prime minister has been offered a duchy but then no other prime minister made such a difference to the course of his country's history.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller is no Churchill but he is no ordinary chief executive either. Most chief executives take over a good company, improve it a bit and then hand it on to somebody else. There is every reason to think that Aer Lingus would not exist today if the German had not taken the ailing airline in hand when he was appointed in 2009. That was the airline's darkest hour. Senior executives were defecting almost monthly, the share price had tumbled 67pc in just 12 months and the company had recently reported a pre-tax loss of €119.7m.

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