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Raft of Irish CEOs in it for the long haul


Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary Photo: Bloomberg

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary Photo: Bloomberg

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary Photo: Bloomberg

Aidan Heavey has been a feature of the Irish listed companies' scene for well over two decades, founding Tullow Oil in 1985 and listing it four years later. But at 63, and after 31 years in the role, it was inevitable that he would move on from the chief executive position at Tullow sooner rather than later. Indeed, had oil prices not nose-dived in 2014 Heavey would have left the company some time ago.

However, Heavey is not alone in his long service in the chief executive role. Over the next five years, several plc bosses on the Irish Stock Exchange may hand over the baton.

The longest serving CEOs include:

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair

A former tax advisor to Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, O'Leary became deputy chief executive of Ryanair between 1991 and 1994 and was promoted to chief executive of Ryanair in January 1994. Under O'Leary's management, Ryanair further developed the low-cost model originated by Southwest Airlines.

Now 23 years in the top job, O'Leary's brash image has become inseparable from that of the airline. O'Leary (56) has spoken of a succession plan in the past, although his contract will continue until 2019.

Eamonn Rothwell, Irish Continental Group

Rothwell (61) has been a director of Irish Continental Group (ICG), which owns Irish Ferries, for 29 years. He was appointed as a non-executive director in 1987 and to the position of chief executive in 1992.

The company listed in 1988, and in the year Rothwell took the reins it acquired the B&I Line, then owned by the Irish government.

The most stormy period in the company's history came when Rothwell attempted a management buyout (MBO) in 2007. It led to one of the most fraught takeover battles in Irish corporate history. Both developer Liam Carroll and businessman Philip Lynch wrestled for control of the company over two years but although his MBO plan was shelved he stayed at the helm. ICG remained resilient through the recession. As a 15pc shareholder in ICG, he remains deeply embedded in the company.

Owen Killian, Aryzta

Killian (63) has kept a low media profile as chief executive of Irish-Swiss food giant Aryzta, although the company's persistently weak share price and generous pay package has forced the spotlight on him over the past 18 months.

He was appointed chief executive of IAWS, which grew from the Irish Co-Operative Agricultural Agency Society, in 2003. In the same year the company bought a 23pc stake in Swiss food group Hiestand. It later merged fully with that company. Killian is in the middle of a process to return the company to growth by 2018.

Anne Heraty, CPL Resources

Heraty (56) co-founded recruitment firm Cpl Resources plc in 1989 and the company was floated in 1999. She has led a massive expansion of the company, which now does 30pc of its business in the UK and Europe and she is overseeing a cautious expansion into the US.

Heraty and her husband, Paul Carroll, are significant shareholders in the business - she owns 30pc and her husband owns 6pc. This holding and her future plans for the company suggest that she will continue in the top role at CPL for the next number of years.

Sunday Indo Business