Ryanair’s court bid to stop executive joining Easyjet starts next week

Airline says clause bars chief operating officer Peter Bellew from joining rival

Ryanair’s chief operating officer, Peter Bellew. Photograph: Garrett White

Ryanair’s chief operating officer, Peter Bellew. Photograph: Garrett White

 

Ryanair’s legal action to stop its chief operating officer, Peter Bellew, from joining rival Easyjet in January will go ahead next week.

The Irish airline says that Mr Bellew’s contract includes a clause barring him from joining any competitor for 12 months after he leaves Ryanair. He denies this.

Following several delays, the High Court will on Tuesday, December 3rd, begin hearing Ryanair’s action to prevent Mr Bellew joining Easyjet as its chief operating officer in January.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds scheduled the case for next Tuesday at a hearing in the High Court on Thursday.

Mr Justice Senan Allen will hear the action, which will have to finish in four days. Both sides want the case concluded before the end of December, as Mr Bellew is due to begin his new job at the start of the following month.

It is likely that Justice Allen will rule on the case before the courts break for Christmas.

Easyjet confirmed in July that Mr Bellew would join the British carrier in January. Ryanair had earlier announced that the executive was leaving.

The Irish airline, Europe’s biggest, subsequently said it would take legal action to prevent Mr Bellew joining Easyjet in January.

The High Court was due to hear the action earlier this month but an unforeseen problem forced its postponement.

No judge

Both sides, including Mr Bellew and Ryanair Holdings chief executive Michael O’Leary, were in court on Tuesday this week in the hope that the case would begin, but there was no judge available.

Speaking after Ryanair’s annual general meeting in September, Mr O’Leary said all the airline’s executives and senior managers had non-compete clauses. These barred employees from joining rivals for one year after leaving Ryanair.

Mr O’Leary maintained that this extended to himself and said the clauses were tied to share options given to executives as part of their pay.

Mr Bellew continued to work out his notice at Ryanair after the airline confirmed it would take legal action to prevent him joining Easyjet next month.

He was tipped as a likely successor to Mr O’Leary when he returned to the Irish airline in December 2017 from Malaysia Air, where he had been chief executive.

He rejoined the Irish airline at a time when it was dealing with growing unrest among pilots following a rostering mix-up that led to widespread flight cancellations the previous autumn.

Mr Bellew was one of the executives who initially met pilot representatives in late 2017 after Ryanair agreed to recognise trade unions and begin talks with them.