Focus flies to question of Mueller successor

Black horse for the role named as Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy

While it surprised quite a few people, Christoph Mueller's decision to step down as chief executive of Aer Lingus next May is not seen as a result of anything other than simply his own view that his time at the airline's helm has come to a natural end.

Most in the industry are reading the long lead-in time between now and his actual departure next May as a sign that there is no rancour involved. At close to six years, he will be one of the longer serving Aer Lingus chief executives of the past two decades.

Nevertheless, he has been the centre of some controversy recently, particularly over the €1.52 million package he received last year, which was supported by only the narrowest majority at the airline’s annual general meeting in May.

He has not always seen eye-to-eye with members of the board, but the consensus is that he has done a good job and returned the airline to growth, something the airline's chairman, Colm Barrington, made sure to point out in yesterday's statement. Most of the speculation yesterday was focused on how the race to succeed him might shape up. Chief strategy officer Stephen Kavanagh was seen as a likely internal candidate.


Some of the names that were floated included Alan Joyce, the Irish chief executive of Qantas, whose efforts to cut $2 billion Australian dollars from the bloated flag-carriers' budget and 5,000 staff from its payroll are not popular with the press down under.

However, he has recently become an Australian citizen. While that is not a bar to being Aer Lingus chief executive, it is taken as a signal that that is where he intends to stay for the near future.

Another, somewhat darker horse, was Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy who is leaving the listed bookmaker early next year, and would be available at more or less the right time to take the reins at the airline. What are the odds?