We’re used to Michael O’Leary being outspoken on all kinds of subjects from his thoughts on the swine flu epidemic to trying to confiscate a journo’s flat over a bet. But what we’re not used to is the Ryanair boss getting down on bended knee to beg forgiveness. But that’s exactly what he’s done. Today O’Leary apologised ‘unreservedly’ to Sir Stelios for a series of adverts that suggested the easyJet founder lied about punctuality statistics. He was also forced to fork out more than £50k in damages and legal fees – not that it's likely to dent the Ryanair share price too much…
Sir Stelios initially took issue – and you can’t really blame him – after some adverts were published in two newspapers earlier this year, which depicted him with a Pinocchio-like nose, referred to him as ‘EasyJet – Mr Late Again’ and called on him to ‘stop hiding the truth’ about Easyjet's on-time performance. Ouch.
The easyJet founder quickly asked Ryanair to retract the ads and to apologise but they refused, and, according to Stelios’ lawyer Chris Scott, instead suggested Sir Stelios should ‘resolve the dispute by a sumo contest or by a race around Trafalgar Square’. Sir Stelios responded by launching his claim for libel, claiming that the offending ads had caused him ‘significant distress and embarrassment’.
The libel suit was eventually settled out of court, and O'Leary has apologised personally, saying he now recognised that Sir Stelios was not personally responsible for easyJet choosing not to publish weekly details of their on-time performance (nor is he responsible for much else there these days). Sir Stelios will also receive £50,100 in damages, which he says he will donate to his philanthropic organisation which helps disabled entrepreneurs.
The legal case marks the latest in a series of very public bust-ups between Sir Stelios and Michael O’Leary. And if you thought that this might spell the end of the animosity between the two figureheads of the UK’s leading budget airlines, you thought wrong. Stelios delivered this sucker punch in a statement released today: ‘I would like to dedicate this little victory to all those members of the travelling public who have suffered verbal abuse and hidden extras at the hands of O’Leary.’ Miaow.
In today's bulletin:
Dodgy brochure costs Goldman's $550m
BP manages to plug leak as US finds a new reason to vilify it
Edukashun is in a pickle
Entrepreneurship is on the wane, says survey
O'Leary eats humble pie as he apologises to Sir Stelios