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10 Things You Didn't Know About Michael O’Leary

Ryanair is an Irish low-cost airline that recently made news due to the comments of its director. Michael O’Leary, who is the CEO of the company, commented on the current situation where there is a need for distancing to prevent the spread of the corona virus. According to BBC, he opined that Ryanair would not resume flights if the middle seats would remain empty. His logic was that such a move would not make any economic sense. He looks forward to an improved situation around July, with the airline being back to the sky fully by November. So who exactly is Michael O’Leary? If you have a similar question, then this article will help you out by taking you through ten things you probably did not know about him.

1. His Early Life And Growing Up

Michael was born on 20th March 1961 in Westmeath County, Ireland. Not much information is available about his family, though, according to the European CEO, he grew up with five siblings. The identity of his siblings and parents are still in the dark, and it is possibly a move to separate two distinct sides of his life, his family and his career.

2. Schooling

For his studies, Michael attended Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school founded in 1814. The school boasts of a diverse alumni network with former students spread across different sectors. Some of the students who passed through this school include Aidan Heavey, the CEO of Tullow Oil, and J.T. Walsh, a US actor. For his undergraduate studies, he attended Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1983 with a degree in business and economics.

3. Career Beginnings

Once he completed his collegiate education, he joined Stokes Kennedy Crowley as a trainee, where he studied the Irish tax system. He later on, went on to become a tax consultant for the company. He stuck with the company for two years before leaving to look into other ventures. While working for Stokes Kennedy Crowley, he got acquainted with Tony Ryan, a client of the company. Ryan used to receive tax advice from O’Leary for his company Guinness Peat Aviation, a leasing company. In 1987, Ryan hired O’Leary as his financial advisor, mostly on matters dealing with tax.

4. Career In Ryanair

Ryanair was a brainchild of Tony Ryan and other partners, Liam Lonergan and Christopher Ryan. The company came to the aviation sector intending to provide affordable air transport and was gaining immense popularity. The problem is that it ran into losses, and Michael O’Leary took the task of changing the tide to profits. Michael came up with a plan, which included low fares, operating a single plane model, and crawling into the vibrant European market. The action paid, and the airline started recovering from its losses.

5. The Taxi Cab Controversy

Michael O’Leary is a very controversial figure due to some of the moves that he pulls. In 2004, he acquired a taxi plate for his Mercedes S-Class, to get a taxi classification. This action allowed him to use Dublin’s designated bus lanes to help him get across town conveniently. With time, he employed a taxi driver with a full PSV license to drive him around. The action led to a massive outcry from the public, with the Irish transport minister expressing his thoughts on the abuse and irresponsibility portrayed by Michael.

6. Deal With Manchester City

Ryanair’s CEO, has for long, been a diehard Manchester City supporter. In 2003, he got an offer from the company to buy some shares, a deal which he declined. He stated the probable returns did not outweigh the risk factor; hence it did not look like a worthy investment to him. In 2011, he donned the football club’s jersey when Ryanair debuted its destination to and from Manchester.

7. His Controversial Comments On Muslims

As earlier mentioned, Mr. O’Leary is very controversial, and he seems to draw varied sentiment due to his radical views. According to a BBC News article, he received backlash for his comments against Muslim males. He believed that single Muslim males traveling alone posed a terror threat to airlines. Many people took this comment to have a racist connotation, though he did not seem to be apologetic. He said he was real with the situation at hand, as three decades earlier; it was the Irish in a similar situation.

8. His Love For The Racecourse

When this CEO is not at his office, he loves to tend to his horses and cattle on his farm in Westmeath County. He loves the racecourse, and his horses have some championships to their names such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the 2016, 2018, and 2019 Grand National. He also has pictures of his horses in his office.

9. His Relationships

Not much info is available on Michael's past relationships, though at the moment, he is married to Anita Farrell since 2003. They have four children, though he rarely exposes his family to the media. It is a good move in maintaining his professionalism and ensuring his fame does not reach his family. In one interview, he came clear on declining an opportunity to appear in The Apprentice, where he would take a starring role. He made the decision for family reasons.

10. His Net Worth

His flamboyant career spanning almost three decades has resulted in an impressive net worth. In 2018, he made it to the billionaire list, boasting of an asset base of $1.03 billion. However, the value depreciated a year later to around $830 million. Despite the dip, he is still a rich man, and his value seems to appreciate by the day from his high paying job as head of Ryanair.

Closing Word

Michael O’Leary is the CEO of Ryanair, a budget airline, and he was responsible for its change of fortunes during the company's initial days. He is a controversial figure in the corporate world and receives loath and appreciation in equal measure. The ten things about him give you a picture of who this businessman is.

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Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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