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Headlines Make the Man

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Michael O Leary
Michael O Leary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Routinely flying Ryanair’s budget jets always give one pause for thought. Just the process of booking online is a veritable minefield of opportunities to lose money to the forever-on-the fleece practices of company head Michael ‘O Leary. But, say what you will about the lippy Irishman, he does play the airline game by his own rules and creates press that most PR firms would kill for. How does he do it? He isn’t tepid in his statements for a start, and he knows the power of controversy.

Recently O’ Leary was in the press again – not for wanting to take out toilets from his planes, or being fined by the Aviation Authorities ­– this time commenting on executive pay, a debate that refuses to go away courtesy of the banking sector, by saying that ‘being paid 20 times more than his average employee is too little, claiming to work “50 times harder, ’’ in a recent Guardian piece. Later claiming in a Management Today article that ‘his €1.2m (£1m) pay last year made him “the most underpaid and underappreciated airline boss in Europe.”

Underappreciated? Well, that could be for other reasons. But, when you think of CEO salaries for the banking sector, he does have a point. Nonetheless, O’Leary clearly has fun playing the loveable rogue in the press and realizes that the old adage of “There is no such thing as bad press,” is a truism. He also understands that like banking, the airline business is already in the hole with public sentiment…so why not be cheeky about it? The service onboard may be rubbish, but you’ve got to hand it to the boss of a company that flies 80 million passengers a year and has the insolence to say, “I’m probably unemployable, which is why a business as shitty as the airline industry is one where I can flourish.” Clearly the prices of his flights keep the customers coming back, and the press quotes do his marketing for him.

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William R. Feins , freelance journalist from London, UK; he received his B.A. degree in Economics and his Masters in Sociology. William has always been interested in the mechanics of business and the inspiration of original thinkers, and firmly believes that the former can’t succeed without the latter. In his spare time, he enjoys the ridiculous spectacle of watching table tennis on a big screen (preferably at a pub) and reading weighty tomes about World War II.

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