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Pension fund revives efforts to change Ryanair leadership

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The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) is seeking to change the leadership of Ryanair after it was rebuffed at the airline’s annual general meeting.

The forum intends to file resolutions at the 2019 AGM to remove Ryanair chair David Bonderman, who it believes has served for too long, and force the airline to more quickly set out succession plans for chief executive Michael O’Leary.

Both moves come as Ryanair struggles to navigate industrial disputes with its staff across Europe, which have already forced it to issue a profit warning.

When revealing its financial results, the airline said Mr Bonderman will stay in post for up to two years and that succession plans for Mr O’Leary would take up to three years to be announced.

In a letter to Michael Cawley, chair of Ryanair’s nomination committee, LAPFF chair Ian Greenwood said: “Since the AGM, it appears Ryanair faces a prolonged transition to a more stable employment model and improved industrial relations.

“We recognise the company has already improved the customer experience through [the reform programme] ‘Always Getting Better’ and is in the process of increasing its attractiveness as an employer.

“However, Ryanair’s governance has not kept pace with these changes. We consider that more genuinely independent representation on the board could have ensured that these changes were achieved more smoothly.”

Last month LAPFF recommended that its members, which have assets of £230bn, vote against the re-election of Mr Bonderman, who has served as Ryanair chair for 22 years and was an early financial backer of the airline.

However, at the September AGM Mr Bonderman was re-elected with 70.5% of the votes. Voters also approved Ryanair’s accounts with 98.7% in favour, and the remuneration report with 87.9% in favour, despite LAPFF recommendations to vote against.

Despite this, Mr Greenwood said in his letter: “The recent votes on the re-election of both directors [Mr Bonderman and senior independent director Kyran McLaughlin] illustrated the view that there should be change in key board positions and that the company’s ongoing transition must be accompanied by serious corporate governance reform.”

While LAPFF funds own about 1% of Ryanair’s shares, to file a shareholder resolution at an Irish company’s AGM requires the backing of 3% of the shareholders. The forum confirmed it will consult other shareholders to gather support for the resolutions.

Responding to the announcement, a Ryanair spokesperson said: “Ryanair shareholders recently passed all AGM resolutions by a large majority, including the nomination of directors and chairman.

“They appreciate how fortunate we are to have an outstanding chairman like David Bonderman guide the board and the airline.”

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