O'Leary ready for departure

MICHAEL O&rsquo;LEARY, the ubiquitous boss of budget airline Ryanair, could stand down within a year, industry experts said yesterday.<br /><br />The news came as the airline dismissed reports that Ryanair could take control of Aer Lingus through a rights issue.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our position on Aer Lingus was recently confirmed at the Ryanair AGM, which is that we are &lsquo;highly unlikely&rsquo; to make a third offer,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Leary said in an emailed statement.<br /><br />The chief executive, renowned for his outspoken nature and publicity stunts, flagged up his departure date at a recent investor day.<br /><br />&ldquo;I see him leaving within a year, realistically,&rdquo; Collins Stewart&rsquo;s Andrew Fitchie said yesterday. &ldquo;He said he is likely to depart once a deal with Boeing is done and once the fights with Dublin Airport and Stansted Airport are concluded,&rdquo; Fitchie added.<br /><br />And Willie Walsh, the chief executive of airline British Airways (BA) has been rumoured as a possible replacement at his old firm Aer Lingus.<br /><br />&ldquo;Walsh is interested in returning to Aer Lingus where he worked as a pilot, before becoming chief executive to finish off what he started there,&rdquo; one industry source said.<br /><br />BA declined to comment.