Bellew’s departure gives Ryanair management a further shake-up

Cantillon: Peter Bellew’s move to EasyJet sparks speculation about top job

Speculation about management changes at Ryanair has heated up since it emerged that chief operations officer Peter Bellew was defecting to rival EasyJet last week.

The airline is re-organising itself along the lines of International Consolidated Airlines' Group (IAG), owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways among others, with a group holding company controlling several different carriers, each with their own chief executive, competing for cash and aircraft from the parent.

Bellew was tipped as one of the frontrunners for the biggest individual unit, Ryanair DAC, which would include the Irish operation and much of its European business, essentially the Ryanair with which most people are familiar.

Chief commercial officer David O’Brien was another seen as a strong internal candidate for this role. Bellew’s announcement had most observers agreeing that O’Brien would get the DAC job. As a long-standing executive with a clear understanding of Ryanair’s business model and how it works on a day-to-day basis, he would be one of the more obvious choices.


A similar argument could be made for Neil Sorahan, chief financial officer, who worked closely with his predecessor Howard Millar, who is now a board member, before taking on his current job.

One interesting left-field suggestion for the DAC job is Louise Phelan, a Ryanair board member and former Paypal vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. She stepped down from the payment systems multinational in March.

Associates point out that she has the business credentials. Also, there are precedents for independent board members becoming executives. Most recently, Peter Jackson was a non-executive director before taking the top job at global betting business, Flutter Entertainment, owner of Paddy Power and Betfair.

Much of the change has happened. Laudamotion, run by Andreas Gruber, and Polish-based Ryanair Sun, headed by Michal Kaczmarczyk, already function with their own chief executives.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary will run the overall holding company. The airline announced the restructuring in February and is thought likely to confirm who will get the DAC role in the near future.