Sir Michael joined what was then Mercury Airlines as a baggage handler in 1963, a year before it was taken over by British Midlands Airways. By 1969 he was general manager of the airline – later rebranded as BMI – and in 1972 he took the top spot as managing director.
Under Sir Michael’s lead, BMI’s management raised £2.5m to buy out investment group Minster Asset’s stake in the airline in 1978. He was made chairman as a result, and headed up the company until just three years ago, as well as holding a 50 per cent-plus-one controlling stake.
In 2008 Sir Michael pocketed a total of £223m from shareholder Lufthansa for that stake – £50m more than it made from the entire group yesterday.