Ryanair Holdings PLC (LON:RYA) chairman David Bonderman received significantly fewer shareholder votes in favour of his re-election on Thursday amid concerns about the impact of ongoing strikes by pilots and crew.
Bonderman was re-elected with 70.5% of votes at the Irish airline’s annual general meeting (AGM), down from 89% last year.
Chief Executive Michael O’Leary was re-elected to the board with 98.5% of the vote, compared to 99% last year.
“In every case, we have substantial majorities,” O’Leary told the meeting. “The overwhelming majority of our shareholders are supportive [of Bonderman] ... and we should be very appreciative.”
Aberdeen Standard Investments wants chairman replaced
Shareholder, Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), approved all resolutions at the AGM but said it “thought long and hard before reaching that decision”.
ASI backed the re-election of Bonderman and senior independent director Kyran McLaughlin, who advised Ryanair during its initial flotation on the Dublin and NASDAQ stock markets in 1997, but wants them replaced before the AGM next year.
“The length of time both have been on the board suggests a lack of focus on board succession planning; excessive tenure also calls into question an individual’s independence and objectivity, and our engagement on governance matters suggests that the board is not listening carefully enough to shareholders’ views,” said Alison Kennedy, investment director at ASI.
“However, we were aware of the danger of unintended consequences should these two individuals be voted off the board at this time, particularly as none of the other non-executive directors has served for more than five years.”
Kennedy expects to see progress on a succession plan for Bonderman and McLaughlin by the next AGM, saying it was “clear that governance needs to evolve” given the challenges Ryanair faces with industrial action.
“If not, others things being equal, we will vote against the re-election of Mr Bonderman, Mr McLaughlin and the other members of the Nominations Committee,” she said.
Other investors oppose Bonderman’s re-election
Other investors, including Royal London Asset Management and Britain’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), had said they would oppose Bonderman’s re-election.
Bonderman resigned from the board of Uber in 2017 after joking that more women on the board meant “more talking”.
Shares in Ryanair have fallen by 9% in the year to date following a slew of strikes by workers over pay and working conditions.
Cabin crew in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are planning a one-day strike for September 28 and unions have said they will strike once a month until their demands are met.