CEO’s - Assets or Liabilities

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The arrogance, foolishness, or naivety of people in power never ceases to amaze me.  The latest example is Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.  At one level Ryanair is a huge success, started in 1985 with a £1 capital, it has grown to carry 58m passengers in 2008.  Its market capital is €4,949m ($6,500m) compared to British Airways £2,340m ($3,500m).

But at another their ideas about air travel are maverick.  Let’s ignore the plan to charge passengers £1 ($1.50) for using the bathroom on the plane and focus on the recent problems caused by the ash cloud.      

Under EU Regulation 261, if a flight is cancelled, those flying with European carriers into or out of the EU have the right to a refund or to be re-routed.  If passengers chose the latter, they have the right to care - such as accommodation and meals - while they wait.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described the regulations as "flawed" and initially said that he would only pay these expenses up to the value of the ticket - so somebody who bought a 30-euro ticket would only receive 30 Euros to cover their food and accommodation costs when stranded.

This arrogance has resulted in a €3m ($3.75m) fine by the Italian authorities.  That will take a lot of trips to the bathroom to clear it.  What if the other 27 member states of the EU take the same action?

There was also some other examples Gerald Ratner, the CEO of Ratners Jewellers who described his company’s’ products as crap, he didn’t survive, nor did his company.  The new Prime Minister was asked about his favourite joke and he replied, “Nike Clegg”, the man who is now is deputy in the coalition that is the UK government.

The US has had its share with Steve Samek, Arthur Andersons US managing partner saying “the day we lose the public trust is the day we go out of business.

So are CEO’s an asset or a liability?  It probably comes down to the ability of the trusted people around them to keep their feet on the ground and not let the power go to their heads. 


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