Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary (54) became Ireland's newest billionaire last year, as his low-cost airline dominated European travel. Targeting the 100m people who refused to travel Ryanair because it was cheap and nasty by becoming more customer friendly, paid off in spades.

Shares rocketed 30pc in the last year, valuing O'Leary's stake at €770m. At one stage he owned almost 25pc of the airline, but sold close to €270m worth of stock over the last 20 years. He also made bundles of money under a profit-share deal before the airline floated, and between dividends and pay, earned a further €53m.

The Mullingar-based aviation tycoon was conditionally awarded 5m stock options in December 2014 as part of a new five-year contract; these are potentially now worth up to €75m. While the Clongowes-educated former Stokes Kennedy Crowley accountant has previously claimed that he puts all his money in the Post Office, that's not entirely true.

He has a large UK commercial property portfolio, owning two office blocks in the centre of London as well as other buildings. He lives in an extensively-renovated country pile at Gigginstown in Westmeath, but owns a house bought for €9.4m on Raglan Road and a Newmarket stud farm.

O'Leary has also spent heavily to become the biggest national hunt horse-owner in the country. It's an expensive hobby but one that is paying off, as he has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Irish Grand National and a pile of other high-profile races.

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