Thursday 26 April 2018

Mueller: Out of the flying pan into the fire

Christoph Mueller, out going CEO of Aer Lingus
Christoph Mueller, out going CEO of Aer Lingus
Robert Watt (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) speaking at the 'Ireland- Lessons from it's Recovery from the Bank-Sovereign Loop' conference organised by the CBI CEPR and IMF at Dublin Castle.

Christoph Mueller described his time as Aer Lingus chief executive as "great craic" this week. He'll resign the role tomorrow, and will be succeeded by veteran Stephen Kavanagh, who was this week getting his first major taste of the media spotlight as IAG continues its pursuit of the Irish airline.

Mueller leaves Aer Lingus in much better shape than he found it, with a no-nonsense approach that resulted in redundancies, rationalisation and a fitter airline.

But his next challenge, as chief executive of embattled Malaysia Airlines, will arguably be much tougher.

There'll be just the same kind of intense political interest and, one presumes, interference (even if it's oblique) that there is in Ireland, so at least he'll have experience of that.

He's also likely to be in the global media glare from the off. He takes over at the Asian carrier (he's already a board member) a year after one of its aircraft went missing over the South China Sea. It has never been found, and the anniversary of the disappearance (March 8) is sure to rekindle media interest in the case.

The airline was criticised for the way it handled the disappearance and has recently been trying to subtly rebuild its brand with touchy-feely short movies and adverts.

Shelf-stacker climbs the supermarket ladder

The elevation of former Tesco Ireland boss David Potts to the chief executive's role at UK retailer Wm Morrison & Sons went down well yesterday.

Shares in the Bradford chain were up 1.3pc following the news in London.

Potts was a decades-long Tesco veteran, with stints as head of its Irish and later Asian operations and had a seat at the retail giant's board before leaving in 2011 following the departure of retail legend Terry Leahy.

In Ireland, where he arrived in 1997, David Potts's job was to integrate Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices into Tesco.

At Morrison he'll replace Irishman Dalton Phillips. The 'Financial Times' suggested yesterday that the Manchester native, who started out at Tesco stacking shelves, will be a better fit for the avowedly Northern - in the English sense - Morrisons than Dalton Phillips, a former Brown Thomas chain boss.

"Mr Potts is likely to have little time for some of the gimmicks - such as misters to keep vegetables fresh - that marked the era of his predecessor," the paper noted.

Watt's the story with inequality?

My my, it appears the Government really is concerned about inequality rising. Yesterday the Punt overheard Department of Public Expenditure secretary general Robert Watt, pictured, venting his spleen at one of the country's foremost economic journalists over an article that the journalist didn't even write.

The article in the journalist's paper reported on a study by left-wing think-tank Tasc, which said Ireland is now the most unequal country in the European Union. Watt's complaint was that the piece gave undue prominence to that finding - Tasc also said that once social welfare and taxes are taken into account Ireland's inequality is close to the EU average.

The Punt does think it's ludicrous to exclude tax and welfare, but a trip to Dublin 4 will tell you that there are stark differences between rich and poor here, whatever the stats say.

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