Ryanair shareholders back chairman and executive pay

Endorsement comes despite advisors’ calls to oppose them

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary at the Ryanair AGM in Swords, Dublin. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary at the Ryanair AGM in Swords, Dublin. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

Ryanair shareholders overwhelmingly backed the re-election of chairman David Bonderman and its executive pay policy on Thursday despite advisors’ calls to oppose them amid the company’s current cancellation woes.

Reports from two firms recently recommended that Ryanair shareholders oppose a series of motions at the meeting, including its executive pay report and Mr Bonderman’s re-election.

Ryanair held the meeting at its Swords, Co Dublin headquarters yesterday following a week in which it announced that it was cancelling 2 per cent of flights up to the end of October, affecting about 350,000 passengers.

However, investors voted by 89.1 per cent to re-elect Mr Bonderman, who has chaired the company since 1996 and is long past the nine-year point at which it is recommended that independent directors step down. His vote was ahead of the 88.2 per cent support that he got last year.

The remuneration report got the support of shareholders with 88.7 per cent of the company, more than the 85.2 per cent it earned last year. This motion, dubbed “say on pay”, is discretionary and allows shareholders express their view on the sums earned by executives in the previous financial year.

Lack of transparency

Advisers Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) and Institutional Shareholder Services recommended that shareholders oppose it. They argued that a lack of transparency on bonus criteria meant there was a risk that chief executive Michael O’Leary and his colleagues could be overpaid.

The airline paid chief executive Michael O’Leary a total of €3.26 million in its last financial year, which included a performance-related bonus of €950,000 and basic salary of just over €1 million.

Shareholders gave more than 90 per cent support to board members whose independence the advisors questioned, including former Ryanair executives Howard Millar and Michael Cawley, Davy Stockbrokers head of capital markets Kyran McLaughlin, and ex-Department of Transport general secretary Julie O’Neill.

Questions from mainly small retail shareholders focused on the cancellations and the possible damage to Ryanair’s reputation and business. Mr O’Leary repeated apologies made earlier in the week and told them he took full responsibility.

Shareholder Brian Graham, one of those whose criticisms of the airline’s customer service standards four years ago prompted a change in its approach, said he hoped that Ryanair was not returning to its old “gung-ho” management style.

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