Müller to hand over Aer Lingus reins

Christoph Müller is to step down as Aer Lingus chief executive next May, after five years in the job.

Müller to hand over Aer Lingus reins

The company said yesterday that its board will now begin the process of selecting and appointing a new CEO and executive director.

The announcement comes just two months after Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington defended Mr Müller’s €1.52m 2013 remuneration package, at the airline’s annual general meeting; saying “the retention and motivation of the chief executive is critical to the next phase of Aer Lingus’s development”.

That motion was only passed by a 0.5% margin after majority shareholder Ryanair voted in favour, thus nullifying the Government’s opposition vote.

But, in yesterday’s statement, Mr Müller — who succeeded Dermot Mannion in 2009 — said that the fifth anniversary of his appointment was “the right time to hand over the reins”.

“I am conscious that there are significant challenges that we are continuing to address and I am happy to remain with Aer Lingus through May 2015 to apply an ongoing focus to that work,” he added.

“The last five years has involved very hard work for the entire team at Aer Lingus and it is rewarding to see that the company is well-positioned, both strategically and financially,” he said.

Mr Müller’s time in office has seen a rebuilding of Aer Lingus’s fortunes, with him turning a €170m loss-maker into a profitable airline, capable of maintaining dividend payments to shareholders for three consecutive years. Disputes over employee pension entitlements have provided a dark cloud, however, with Aer Lingus recently saying current year operating profits will probably fall by 10% to 20% because of the effect of recent strike action.

Mr Müller’s announcement provides a further shake-up of the Aer Lingus board.

Earlier this month, the airline named Dutchman Bernard Bot — a former finance director of international delivery services group, TNT Express — as its chief financial officer, succeeding the outgoing Andrew MacFarlane.

It remains to be seen what pay challenges Aer Lingus’s board will face when selecting a new chief executive as Mr Barrington — at May’s AGM — said the board would “carefully consider” shareholder views regarding remuneration levels, with those views helping to inform future policy.

A spokesperson for the airline said yesterday that during the last five years, “a very significant proportion of senior management has changed,” adding that Mr Müller will leave “a very strong Aer Lingus, positioned well for the future”.

“The company will continue to grow and develop,” they added.

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