THE PUNT: Enda gives Etihad chief a little lift
Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited the Etihad headquarters in Abu Dhabi this week as part of Ireland's trade mission to the Gulf.
Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, an Australian, was presented with a certificate of Irish descendancy by the Taoiseach, which no doubt delighted the gregarious aviation boss.
Mr Hogan, below with Mr Kenny, was pleased to tell The Punt last year that he had traced his Irish conn-ections back to a great great grandfather who from Cork.
Etihad, which flies between Abu Dhabi and Dublin, this week reported a surge in its group passenger numbers for 2013. It carried a record 12 million fliers -- 16pc more than in 2012.
Its Dublin route carried 240,000 last year, 8pc more than in 2012.
Etihad already owns close to 3pc of Aer Lingus and Mr Hogan has made no secret of his interest in buying more.
But while the Government is hanging on to its 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus for now, Mr Hogan may not have to wait too long to pounce on the airline if he so wishes.
Next month, a Ryanair appeal against a UK Competition Commission order forcing it to sell most of its near 30pc stake in Aer Lingus gets under way. While Ryanair would try to drag out any negative ruling in the courts, the perceived wisdom is that this appeal is only going one way.
Don't gamble on PR stunts
PADDY POWER evidently doesn't always bet on the winner. Its latest sponsorship deal is a perfect example of a marketing campaign gone completely awry.
The bookmaker, whose marketing director is Christian Woolfende, was recently forced to "take a step back" from its role as sponsor of a controversial basketball envoy sent to North Korea.
Why Paddy Power thought putting its name behind a PR event in an insular and highly authoritarian regime was a good idea is beyond us. The whole affair has managed to incite fury from commentators around the world, many of whom see it as a sign of acceptance of North Korea's human rights abuses.
But this is not the first PR blunder from Paddy Power. The betting giant celebrated the birth of Prince George in the UK by sending a troupe of half-naked men dressed in grotesque baby masks on a tour of London. The babies took a ride on a tube to St Mary's Hospital and visited Buckingham Palace and Boujis Nightclub to advertise their odds on the future British king's hair colour.
It might have been distasteful, but we have to admit the campaign was effective. As the saying goes -- all publicity is good publicity.
Dunne deal for top legal eagle
DUNNES Stores has had so many senior management changes in the past few years that it's almost hard to keep track. There's been a lot of traffic between Superquinn (now owned by Musgrave) and Dunnes, but the latest recruit to the retailer headed by Margaret Heffernan and her brother Frank Dunne comes from the legal profession.
Robert Heron, a partner at law firm Matheson, is departing its hallowed halls to take up a post at Dunnes. He has worked with clients such as Anglo Irish Bank during the financial crisis and has been a partner in Matheson's corporate department since 1995.
Just recently, Superquinn finance director Richard Collins left to join Dunnes. Joe Webb, former chief executive of Independent News & Media's Irish arm, has also joined Dunnes in a significant operating role.
The changes continue as Dunnes gains ground on Tesco, the country's biggest grocery retailer, which has been losing ground in the Irish market. But Dunnes, Tesco and Musgrave are all facing stiff competition from German discounters Aldi and Lidl.
It will be interesting to see how the Christmas and new year period fared for all concerned, particularly as insiders say Dunnes had a tough time with its textiles division over the period.