easyJet chief executive McCall settled in for the long haul

Fri May 30, 2014 6:42am EDT
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By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) - When Carolyn McCall took the top job at Britain's easyJet, the abrasive boss of rival low-cost airline Ryanair attempted to write her off as "some old media luvvie".

Almost four years later, Michael O'Leary is having to play catch-up, emulating some of the more customer-friendly strategies that McCall, a former newspaper group boss, has brought to easyJet's bright orange brand.

"She's done a great job at easyJet," the Irishman said in a one-line statement when asked for comment on his rival, one of only four women running a FTSE 100 company.

Since becoming chief executive in July 2010, McCall has overseen an almost fourfold rise in the share price and a more than doubling in profit at Europe's second-largest low-cost carrier behind Ryanair. And she doesn't intend to stop there.

"There's so much more to do," 52-year old McCall told Reuters. "I can see myself continuing to work at easyJet for quite a long time."

Shareholders investing 100 pounds ($170) in easyJet and reinvesting dividends from the beginning of 2011 would have a holding now worth around 450 pounds, compared with the 208 pounds they would have from Ryanair and the 136 pounds from British Airways owner IAG, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"She's been very disciplined about how she's gone about that growth. It's not about sticking flags in maps. It's about being ruthless – does this route work or doesn't it?," Trevor Green, the head of institutional equities at Aviva Investors, one of easyJet's twenty-biggest shareholders, said.

"I think she’s got a model which is working and keeping going with that model will continue to be a success."   Continued...

Chief Executive Officer of easyJet Carolyn McCall poses after a media conference announcing expansion plans in Italy with the opening of a new base, in Naples March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca