When Tony met Michael O'Leary...
Tony Ryan first came across Michael O'Leary when the latter was a tax trainee in Stokes Kennedy Crowley, the new biography of the Ryanair founder says.
The young O'Leary was sent down to work on the accounts at Kilboy, the 350-acre Tipperary stud farm and estate Ryan had bought.
The two men talked and got to know each other, helped by the fact that O'Leary had been at Clongowes where Ryan's sons Cathal and Declan had also been in school around the same time.
The other factor, the book says, was that O'Leary even then had the kind of chutzpah that Tony admired. O'Leary says in the book: "I called him up one weekend because there was a scheme – not a tax dodge, but a grey area – and I said to him, 'Look, I'm not allowed to say this at SKC, but I think I can save you some money'."
That claim must have struck a chord with Tony, the book says, because shortly afterwards he decided to offer O'Leary a job in GPA.
But by then O'Leary had left SKC to run a newsagents – he always wanted to do his own thing – and Ryan had to scour the newsagents shops around Dublin to find him. It took Ryan a few months to convince O'Leary, the book says, but eventually O'Leary agreed to come and work as Tony's assistant. They agreed that O'Leary would get paid 5pc of any money he made.
By the time O'Leary arrived at Ryanair he had already established a rapport with Tony based on straight talking and a forensic analysis of the books. Tony was a visionary, and Michael was the deliverer, the book says. That made them a perfect match.
In Denis O'Brien, his first personal assistant, Tony had found someone who would stand up to him and whose entrepreneurial spirit matched his own, the book says. Now in Michael O'Leary he had discovered someone who would also stand up to him and whose managerial talent far outmatched his own.
"It was O'Leary who could make Tony's vision fly, and he also possessed the self- confidence to clip Tony's wings when necessary. On occasion that would lead to spectacular rows between the two men, but Tony always understood that talent-spotting the young accountant, as he had done with O'Brien, was among his most important calls. The eventual decision to put O'Leary into Ryanair was described by him as 'the best deal he ever did'," author Richard Aldous writes in the new biography published this weekend.