Sunday 26 May 2019

Ryanair chairman reappointed as airline lifts media ban at AGM

Michael O’Leary has been re-elected as CEO of Ryanair. Photo: PA
Michael O’Leary has been re-elected as CEO of Ryanair. Photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair chairman David Bonderman has been re-elected at the company’s annual general meeting.

Mr Bonerman was elected with 70.5pc of votes in favour.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary has also been re-elected with 98.5pc of votes, as has independent director Kyran McLaughlin, who received just 66.8pc of votes in favour of his reappointment.

This is the first AGM that Ryanair has held since it agreed to recognise trade unions.

Ryanair did a dramatic turnaround this morning, permitting all media to its AGM. It occurred after the The Irish Independent, RTE and The Financial Times legitimately gained access to the event.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary joked as the AGM got underway that the meeting had "100pc load factor" of media.

Mr O'Leary will also give a media briefing after the AGM, something the airline had previously said would not take place.

One shareholder said the effort to prevent media from attending the AGM had been a "retrogade" step, but thanked the airline's board for letting them attend.

As previously disclosed in the company’s 2018 Annual Report, Charlie McCreevy and Declan McKeon chose not to seek re-election at the AGM.

Chairman David Bonderman thanked both Mr McCreevy and Mr McKeon for their contribution over the last eight years and welcomed both Emer Daly and Róisín Brennan as new members of the board.

Meanwhile in a statement, Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages roughly 11 million shares in Ryanair, or 0.9pc of the issued share capital, said that it had instructed its proxy to vote in favour of all the AGM’s resolutions.

Acknowledging the success of Ryanair, Alison Kennedy, investment director at Aberdeen Standard, said that in order to achieve its success Ryanair has had to “change and evolve”, but she said “it is currently going through a period when that evolution is proving more challenging.”

In its decision to vote in favour of the re-election of chairman Mr Bonderman and director Mr McLaughlin, Ms Kennedy said that the length of time both had been on the board of Ryanair – 22 years and 17 years respectively – suggested “a lack of focus on board succession planning.”

“Excessive tenure also calls into question an individual’s independence and objectivity, and our engagement on governance matters suggests that the board is not listening carefully enough to shareholders’ views.”

“However, we were aware of the danger of unintended consequences should these two individuals be voted off the board at this time, particularly as none of the other non-executive directors has served for more than five years,” Ms Kennedy continued.

“Given the challenges the company faces, for example in union and labour relations, it is clear that governance needs to evolve.”

Ms Kennedy went on to say that “strong, independent and visible board leadership is more important than ever.”

“We expect that there will be clear progress on succession for these two key board positions [chairman Mr Bonderman and director Mr McLaughlin] by the time of the AGM next year. If not, others things being equal, we will vote against the re-election of Mr Bonderman, Mr McLaughlin and the other members of the nominations committee.”

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