Sunday 25 February 2018

Investor chief says Ryanair facing a conflict of interest

Roisin Burke

RYANAIR faces a potential conflict of interest with its chairman David Bonderman heading a bid for Stansted Airport -- the asset in which it badly wanted a stake, according to the body representing Ireland's biggest investors.

"There is undoubtedly a conflict of interest here," said Frank O'Dwyer of the Irish Association of Investment Managers.

"A chairman is responsible for the board and it's to the board that the management report," said O'Dwyer.

US tycoon David 'Bondo' Bonderman runs multibillion dollar investment giant TPG, a main bidder for Stansted, which is up for sale, priced at over €1bn. Until recently Ryanair was avidly chasing a 25 per cent stake in the airport, only dropping the plan last month when the airport's owner said it wouldn't sell to the airline.

The matter is further complicated as Ryanair is Stansted's biggest client and could become a customer of its chairman's company if TPG buys the airport.

Famed for leading the buyout of Continental Airlines in the Nineties, and also for having the Rolling Stones play for his 60th birthday in Las Vegas, Bonderman has been chairman of Ryanair since 1996 and co-founder of TPG. He holds €45m worth of shares in the airline.

"He wasn't involved in any meetings regarding Stansted, he is not involved in any of the day-to-day running of the airline," a Ryanair spokesman said. "We don't see any conflict of interest."

"An information barrier was put in place before the process began, before September so there wouldn't be any discussion or conflict," a source at TPG said.

However a key responsibility of the chairman set out by Ryanair is that "he ensures that board agendas cover key strategic issues confronting the group; that the board reviews and approves management's plans for the group."

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