​O’Leary would like woman to lead Ryanair mainline

Aviation

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary would like a woman to take over as head of the group’s mainline operation, although his preference for an internal candidate appears to limit his options in this regard.

Explaining at the A4E Summit in Brussels on 6 March that he expected the new chief executive to be in place by year-end, O’Leary expressed a desire to “break from the past”. At the same time, however, he suggests that a current Ryanair employee is the most likely appointee.

“If I had a choice, I’d have a female, just because that would be a very significant break with the past in Ryanair,” he says, adding that he thinks “it’s likely to be an internal candidate, because they understand the business”.

Of the nine “senior executives” listed on Ryanair’s website, just one is a woman: chief risk officer Carol Sharkey.

“I would want somebody who has the opposite of my limited skillset,” says O’Leary. “So, somebody female, empathetic, caring, kind. As opposed to a rapacious bastard like me for the last 30 years. I think it would be very good for the company.”

He clarifies that the process to identify the new mainline chief executive will not begin until Ryanair has released its full-year results.

“The plan is, we’ll advertise internally and externally, do the full-year results in May, we’ll run the ads at that stage, we’ll recruit sometime in September and October and have them in place by the end of the year,” he says.

O’Leary suggests that an external candidate is unlikely to take up the role unless an “exceptional” person applies.

As part of a restructuring at Ryanair, O’Leary is stepping up to a group chief executive role. Eventually, the heads of Ryanair mainline, Laudamotion and to-be-renamed Ryanair Sun will report to him. There are also tentative plans for a Ryanair UK unit, depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.