Published on Sunday July 06 2008. By John Reynolds
Flying in the face of a public image that has seen the Ryanair chief executive wage a wars of words on environmental matters, he has now invested some of his €400m personal fortune in eco-friendly wind energy.
“I’ve looked at a lot of potential investments in the area of clean technology and renewable energy, and I have invested in wind energy technology twice,” he told the Sunday Independent, although he declined to reveal specifically which companies he has invested in.
His turbulent relationship with environmentalists has seen him dismiss them as “half-witted loons,” amongst other derogatory names, in recent years. Mr O’Leary is seen as the scourge of the environment by many greens for his airline’s sky-high greenhouse gas emissions — 3.6m tonnes last year alone — and the damage done to the planet by giving away free flights on his gas-guzzling planes.
With oil approaching the $150 a barrel mark, however, and predicted by investment bank Goldman Sachs to soar over $200 within two years, he admits his planes have been flying slower than other airlines “for years,” in order to guzzle less of it.
“People are finding ways of avoiding burning oil because it’s recently trebled in value. No airline wants to burn more than it has to. We have all the incentive we need with oil at over $140 a barrel.”
His “anti-environment” public persona flies in the face of the truth, the Ryanair CEO claims. “I get portrayed as being ‘anti’ the environment, but my passion is farming. I’m all pro-environment, but I’m all for taking effective, sensible measures to enhance the environment, not stupid and ineffective measures like raising taxation.
“Climate change, if it happens, will affect everybody’s business. We all have a role to play in minimising our impact on the environment. Flying Ryanair is making a contribution to reducing your impact on the environment by switching from noisy, polluting and fuel inefficient airlines such as British Airways and Aer Lingus,” he added.
The Mullingar-based mogul achieved further notoriety last month at a press conference in Dusseldorf, in Germany. He told a stunned audience that a Ryanair transatlantic spin-off airline would offer “beds and blowjobs” to high fare-paying business class passengers, while offering economy fares for as little as €10.
The current recession may bring about an opportunity to secure cheap planes for such an airline, as it did when Boeing was reeling from the aftermath of 9/11, he believes. However, Mr O’Leary also sees the downturn as an opportunity to add to his own investment portfolio, and recently advertised for a personal investments adviser to be based in his home town.
“I’m always on the lookout for investments. There are undoubtedly going to be some interesting investment opportunities around in the next 12 months.
“The world is clearly heading for a recession. The oil price is at an all-time high, and just look at the state of the property market in Ireland. It’s been crazy for the last few years and there will be some great bargains to be had in the next year or two.