Ryan tried to sell 25pc Ryanair stake to BA
Legendary aviation tycoon Tony Ryan tied to sell a 25 per cent stake in Ryanair to his bitter rivals at British Airways, according to a new authorised biography of the Irish business giant.
Ryan, who died in 2007, held informal discussions with BA chairman Lord Marshall ahead of the Irish carrier's IPO, according to Richard Aldous' new book Tony Ryan – Ireland's Aviator, published by Gill & Macmillan last week.
"At the start of the negotiations, Tony had 'tentatively concurred' to sell 25 per cent of Ryanair to BA for £26m," according to the book. "However, as negotiations dragged on, Tony began to accuse BA of attempting to erode Ryanair's position, in effect of devaluing its worth."
The buyout talks ended without a deal. "At the end of the day, Ryanair negotiators had found BA peremptory and arrogant in its belief that Ryanair was to be seen as a dodgy upstart that needed to be subsumed into the BA global empire," the book says.
"If the mutual misunderstanding needed a symbol it was surely the glossary of terms BA felt it necessary to provide on its flights across the Atlantic for passengers watching The Commitments, set in working-class Dublin. Tony kept it in his briefcase thereafter."
Although Tony Ryan was disappointed that the deal had gone south, he had another ace up his sleeve. It was one that could have led to the end of the Ryanair name.
"While Tony had been negotiating with BA, he was simultaneously engaged in talks with its biggest competitor, Virgin," according to the book.
The unsuccessful talks centred on a consortium headed by Richard Branson and David Bonderman's private equity giant Texas Pacific taking a 51 per cent stake in the airline, Aldous wrote. "The game plan going forward would be to change the name of the airline to use the Virgin brand."