Ryanair CEO denies accusation of bullying former operations chief

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DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ryanair (I:) chief executive Michael O’Leary on Wednesday dismissed accusations that he bullied and forced out his former operations chief Peter Bellew, telling a court he was a highly paid professional who had failed to deliver.

Bellew resigned as Ryanair Chief Operations Officer in July and the Irish low-cost carrier, Europe’s largest, has asked the Irish High Court to delay his departure to arch-rival easyJet (L:), saying he is subject to a 12-month non-compete clause.

Former Malaysia Airlines boss Bellew denies he is subject to the clause and plans to start working with the British airline at the start of next year.

O’Leary was in court to give evidence for a second day. On Tuesday he had made a series of accusations against Bellew, accusing him of lying and of failing to perform, citing “repeated complaints” from employees working under him about slow decisions or no decision making.

“If I am hiring Sergio Aguero, I expect him to score goals, I don’t expect to have to show him which side of the goal to shoot at,” O’Leary told the court, comparing Bellew to the Manchester City soccer club striker.

Queried about a number of successes in parts of the company that Bellew was responsible for, O’Leary said they were despite rather than because of his performance, although he admitted telling Bellew in March 2018 that he had made “a significant and positive impact” during his first four months in the role.

Bellew returned to Ryanair in December 2017, where he had been director of flight operations before leaving for Malaysia Airlines in 2014.

Bellew’s lawyer, John Rogers, said that O’Leary had told his operations chief that he was “too nice for Ryanair” and he accused the long-serving Ryanair boss of turning the case into an attack on his client.

The court was read a letter sent by Bellew to O’Leary after he announced his move to easyJet in which he accused his boss of bullying him in trying to force him to accept the 12-month non-compete clause.

Asked by Bellew’s lawyer if this was the case, O’Leary replied: “This isn’t bullying, it is just factual.”

O’Leary said he had made significant efforts to entice Bellew to stay and had been “stunned and deeply disappointed” when he announced the move to easyJet.

A lawyer for Ryanair told the court during the first day of the case on Tuesday that Bellew possessed information of immense competitive value that the airline could not allow to be passed to its rival, including details of delays to the delivery of Boeing’s (N:) grounded 737 MAX aircraft.

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