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Michael O'Leary eyes Ryanair retirement as he talks of a successor


Michael O’Leary speaking at a Ryanair press event in Dublin

Michael O’Leary speaking at a Ryanair press event in Dublin

Michael O’Leary speaking at a Ryanair press event in Dublin

There's a "50-50" chance Michael O'Leary will retire as Ryanair chief executive in 2019 when his current five-year contract expires, he said.

Mr O'Leary, who will be 58 in 2019, insisted yesterday he doesn't plan to be hanging on until he's 75 and said there is succession planning at Ryanair.

"I'll only stay if the board wants me to stay. I'm not wedded to this place that I want to stay here until I'm 75," he said as the airline launched the latest phase of its so-called 'Always Getting Better' plan.

"We have succession plans both for me and all the other senior managers on an ongoing basis," he said, pointing out that there are a "number of internal senior management candidates" who could succeed him, and that the board would look externally as well.

"One of the challenges for me here in Ryanair, is to step down…and have the next generation of management coming in. It's easy to be the guy who's been here for 20 years or 25 years.

"The acid test of a really good company like Tesco, Lidl and Aldi has been where to get the next management group to come through. I think that's something that's a challenge facing me and the rest of the management team here over the next five years."

Just after he signed his five-year contract, in 2014, Mr O'Leary told the Irish Independent that he'd "go nuts" if he thought he'd still be at the airline in 15 years.

Mr O'Leary also said he held a meeting yesterday with DAA boss Kevin Toland about the planned runway at Dublin Airport. The DAA said the scheme will cost €320m. The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) previously envisaged that a new runway would cost just under €250m, based on 2014 prices.

That CAR calculation includes money the DAA would be able to use for planning, design and house buyouts. The DAA has pledged to eventually buy some houses that will be impacted by noise from the new runway.

The CAR has assumed that the DAA will recover the cost of the new runway over 50 years, allowing a 5.8pc annual rate of return on capital.

The CAR determines the maximum fee per passenger that the DAA can charge airlines using Dublin Airport. The maximum level is set at up to €10.31 for 2016.

While the CAR has determined that the maximum amount will decline each year to 2019, it has permitted the DAA to raise the maximum it can levy by 59 cent per passenger to fund the construction of a new runway.

"We support the need for a second runway at Dublin Airport," said Mr O'Leary, but not the higher cost that the DAA announced last week, he added.

"I can't understand how without turning a sod it's suddenly gone up by €70m," he said. Mr O'Leary also said Ryanair is opposed to a new control tower at Dublin Airport that the Irish Aviation Authority plans to build in conjunction with the new runway.

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Ryanair unveiled a new leisure-bundled fare product yesterday, as well as more flexible ticketing for business flyers. It's also introducing simplified baggage options, a dedicated group booking website, and auto check-in for registered users.

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