Ryanair’s case against Peter Bellew will be watched by group of US shareholders suing the airline:
Airline taking action to prevent chief operations officer joining rival Easyjet Case of interest to US shareholders suing Ryanair over industrial relations statement
A group of US shareholders who are suing Ryanair will closely watch the airline’s legal action against its outgoing chief operations officer, Peter Bellew, this week.
Ryanair’s High Court action to prevent Mr Bellew joining rival Easyjet next month begins today and is expected to last for the rest of the week.
US investors, led by the City of Birmingham Firemen’s and Policemen’s Supplemental Pension System, which own shares in the Irish carrier, have hired lawyers from a large Dublin firm to watch the proceedings for them. The pension fund, run by the City of Birmingham, Alabama, led a group of investors that last year filed papers in a New York court against Ryanair and its chief executive, Michael O’Leary.
The shareholders claimed that the airline made misleading statements about its industrial relations. Ryanair and Mr O’Leary dismissed these claims as “invented”.
The case between Ryanair and Mr Bellew begins today before Mr Justice Senan Allen. It is understood to hinge on an agreement tied to share options issued to Mr Bellew and other senior managers in 2018.
Ryanair confirmed that it intended taking legal action against Mr Bellew shortly after Easyjet confirmed him as its new chief operations officer.
Mr O’Leary said after the the airline’s annual general meeting that all senior managers had agreements barring them from joining competitors for 12 months after they leave the company. He noted that these were tied to share options given to managers.
Ryanair’s annual report and filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show it has given share options to senior managers several times since 2014.
The SEC filings state that during its 2019 financial year, Ryanair gave 10 million share options to 102 senior managers and 11 non-executive board members.
Managers can take these up between September 2024 and February 2026 if profits top ¤2 billion or the shares trade at ¤21 each over 28 days between 2021 and 2024.
According to the annual report, there were 39.8 million options outstanding on March 31st, 2019, the end of its last financial year. The average price at which these could be exercised was ¤9.38.
Ryanair declined to comment on the court action.