Michael Kevin O’Leary (born 20 March 1961) is the Chief Executive Officer of Ryanair. He is one of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen.
O’Leary grew up near Mullingar, County Westmeath. His father was the part owner of a textile factory. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare before studying business and economics at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduating in 1983, he worked as a trainee with Stokes Kennedy Crowley (later known as KPMG), studying the Irish tax system. He left after two years in 1985, setting up profitable newsagents in Walkinstown and Terenure, Dublin.
While at Stokes Kennedy Crowley, O’Leary had met Tony Ryan, head of Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA), a leasing company. Ryan was one of KPMG’s clients and O’Leary advised Ryan on his personal income tax affairs. In 1987, Ryan hired O’Leary as his personal financial and tax advisor, where Ryan’s main interest was in GPA.
Under O’Leary’s management, Ryanair further developed the low-cost model originated by Southwest Airlines. O’Leary described the ancillary revenue model in a 2001 interview, saying “The other airlines are asking how they can put up fares. We are asking how we could get rid of them.” The business model envisioned by O’Leary uses receipts from on board shopping, internet gaming, car hire and hotel bookings to supplement the ticket revenue from selling airline seats. Savings are also made by negotiating discounts with airports for reduced landing fees. In many cases, regional airports have made no charges so as to secure flights that bring passengers and wealth into their area. The deregulation of Ireland’s major airports and a transformation of traditional full-service airlines are among his demands.