Ryanair chairman faces growing opposition to re-election

Labour groups say David Bonderman has overseen ‘anti-union’ culture

David Bonderman (75) is founder of private-equity giant TPG Holdings. Photograph: Reuters

David Bonderman (75) is founder of private-equity giant TPG Holdings. Photograph: Reuters

 

Ryanair’s chairman of more than two decades, US billionaire David Bonderman, is facing increasing opposition to his re-election at the discount carrier’s annual meeting later this month.

The ITF and ETF international labour groups and investor-advisory service Glass Lewis are separately lobbying against the reappointment of Mr Bonderman, a long-time ally of chief executive Michael O’Leary who has led the Ryanair board since 1996.

Ryanair said investors appreciate the American’s contribution and will back his reappointment at the September 20th gathering.

Efforts to displace the founder of private-equity titan TPG Holdings have emerged following a 12-month labour crisis at Ryanair. A scheduling foul up gave staff increased bargaining power, compelling the airline to accept unions and sparking a spate of strikes that have squeezed earnings and seem set to push up costs as it’s forced to renegotiate contracts.

The two labour groups said that Mr Bonderman, 75, has presided over a corporate culture “which for two decades was virulently anti-union,” adding that if Ryanair is serious about engaging with workers and unions, “the time has come for fresh leadership.”

Glass Lewis on August 23rd recommended that shareholders unseat the chairman because of the choice of Kyran McLaughlin as senior independent director, when he is also deputy chair of Davy Stockbrokers, which acts as a major adviser to Ryanair. It also opposes the re-election of former Ryanair finance chief Howard Millar as a member of the company’s remuneration committee, saying the body should consist solely of independent directors.

Fortunate

Ryanair said its shareholders “appreciate how fortunate we are to have an outstanding chairman like David Bonderman guide the board and the airline.” It predicted that all resolutions will be a carried by a large majority at the annual meeting, as in previous years.

The airline last month reached two accords in its efforts to appease staff, securing a deal with its Italian pilots and a preliminary agreement with Irish cockpit crew who spearheaded the original dispute.

On Wednesday, Irish-based Ryanair pilots voted to accept a deal with the company, while negotiations with flight attendants and aviators across the rest of its network are ongoing.