Lawyers for low-cost behemoth Ryanair have argued in Ireland’s High Court that its chief operations officer should not be allowed to defect to arch-rival easyJet because he holds information of “immense value” that would greatly benefit its competitor to the detriment of Ryanair. Senior counsel of the airline, Martin Hayden told the court that’s exactly why senior executives had a so-called ‘non-compete clause’ in their contracts.
If the judges side with Ryanair, Peter Bellow who also previously held a senior position at Maylasia Airlines before moving back home to his native Ireland in 2017 in what he referred to as an act of “national service”, would not be allowed to join easyJet until 2021.
In July, Bellew announced he would be leaving Ryanair a mere two-years after joining the Dublin-based carrier. The announcement took many by surprise as it had initially seemed like Bellew was being lined up to eventually replace Ryanair’s current chief executive Michael O’Leary.
Even more surprisingly, a week after announcing his resignation, Bellew then said he would be joining Luton-based easyJet as its chief operations officer.
In today’s High Court proceedings, it was revealed that O’Leary didn’t learn about Bellew’s plan to defect until a day before the airline put out a press release announcing it had managed to poach Bellew. O’Leary told the court that Bellew’s performance was below expectations and that there were “problems emerging on a weekly basis”.
Bellew had been brought in by O’Leary to quell an industrial uprising but it appears he didn’t like the way in which Bellew was going. Bellew’s solicitor today told the court that his client had felt “pushed out” in comments reported by Reuters.
For his part, Bellew said he never signed a non-compete clause and should have every right to move to easyJet at a time of his choosing. While Ryanair concedes there wasn’t a non-compete clause in his initial employment contract, there was one within a bonus scheme that Bellew signed up to.
Ryanair said he had benefited from the scheme with a bonus payment of €1.13 million paid out this year alone.
Of most concern to Ryanair is Bellew’s knowledge of Boeing 737MAX delays and the contracts signed between the aircraft manufacturer and airline. “Mr Bellew has all of this information … in his head, and it would be of immense benefit to a rival,” Hayden said during today’s proceedings.