Monday 18 December 2017

TH€ PUNT: O'Leary and the long goodbye

ONWARDS and upwards. The Punt was surprised to hear, given how tightly Ryanair's inner circle sticks together, that the airline's deputy chief executive and chief operating officer Michael Cawley is stepping down. Mr Cawley will leave next March to "pursue other opportunities".

We're sure he won't be short of job opportunities following his departure. For 17 years, he has helped to build one of the most innovative and successful businesses of the past century, irretrievably tearing down preconceptions about air travel.

He has overseen the commercial strategy of a carrier that, in a little more than 20 years, has gone from tiny Irish underdog to the world's largest international airline. Ryanair flew 80 million international passengers last year and is aiming for 110 million by 2019.

All of the parts of Ryanair that he had responsibility for – its "low fares-high load factor" strategy as well as its determined approach to dealing with airports – have been essential to this growth.

Still, some things never change. Announcing the departure, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary used the opportunity to commend Mr Cawley for giving a long period of notice. Notice might be a relatively minor issue but Mr O'Leary never misses a chance to push his agenda; that's what makes him so successful. We bet Mr Cawley approved.

Making life hard for EasyJet

Easyjet's estranged founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is again proving a thorn in the side of the airline's management.

Mr Haji-Ioannou, pictured, better known as Stelios, said yesterday that he planned to vote against the airline's plan to buy 135 new Airbus planes because they were not needed and their real cost had been kept secret.

He founded EasyJet in 1995 but quit the board in 2010 after a row over strategy. He still has a 37pc stake and frequently disagrees with the airline on fleet expansion, executive pay and dividend policy.

EasyJet announced last month it would buy 35 A320 aircraft and 100 new A320neo jets, with options for a further 100.

It did not reveal the value of the deal – which must be approved by major investors at a meeting on July 11 – but said it had negotiated a "very substantial" discount.

EasyJet sent a detailed circular to shareholders late last month and airline executives have been meeting top institutional investors to discuss the order, sources close to the airline said.

"I believe these decisions have been made behind closed doors, mostly by City insiders playing with other people's money," Stelios said.

"It is also conceivable that people close to Airbus have bought shares in EasyJet in order to influence the vote."

Easyjet declined to comment on Stelios's remarks. Airbus also declined to comment.

Stelios, who also criticised the airline for failing to specify which routes the planes would be used on, said he expected the deal would nonetheless be passed.

Sources close to EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall said she was confident of winning approval from shareholders. (Reuters)

Ernst and Young loses a syllable

CHANGE is afoot over at Ernst and Young, where the accounting firm has just announced a rebranding. The words "Ernst and Young" will no longer pass our lips; it's "EY" from now on. A new logo and slogan – "Building a better working world" – have also been adopted.

The Punt got a chuckle from the company's press release on the matter, which said that "shortening of the brand name will provide ease of use for EY practices and clients around the world."

Let's take a moment to think about this – were clients around the world really troubled by the name 'Ernst and Young'? Will they rest easier now that they can rely on an abbreviation that's a whole syllable shorter?

A rebrand is fair enough given that the industry has been referring to the company as "E and Y" for years, but this is the type of PR waffle that really gets our back up.

The firm has also announced the formal appointment of its new chairperson and chief executive, Mark Weinberger. He takes over the reins from the outgoing Jim Turley. Mr Weinberger began his career with EY in 1987 as an entry-level staff member in the national tax department before rising up the ladder to global vice chair of tax.

Irish Independent

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