HE has a personal fortune of over £1billion and this week, Michael O’Leary got another financial boost when Ryanair shareholders approved a bonus of £87million.
But the airline boss is hardly a high flyer when it comes to spending – and while other billionaires might indulge in Rolex watches, fast cars and yachts, O’Leary refuses to splash out on frivolities and has been branded “pathologically” tight when it comes to his money.
O’Leary won over £1M on the Grand National[/caption]
The 57-year-old father-of-four shuns designer clothes in favour of a local menswear store – and has even been known to steal pens rather than buying his own.
Last year Matt Cooper, the author of O’Leary’s biography, told the Sun: “Michael is utterly ruthless and pathological about how much he hates spending money.”
But he’s happy to open the moth-eaten wallet when it comes to his two passions – houses and horses.
He owns a multi-million pound property portfolio in Dublin and Europe and has owned over 100 race horses, including Cheltenham Cup and Grand National winners.
O’Leary – who once suggested he planned to charge passengers to use the loo on flights – is a controversial figure, hated by many for the penny-pinching business model and attitude towards staff’s demands for better pay.
And this week almost half the company’s shareholders staged a revolt, voting against the five year pay deal, which passed with a narrow 50.5 per cent of the vote.
Investors argued that Mr O’Leary’s pay packet had “no compelling justification”.
It comes after Ryanair had one of its worst years in 2018, with hundreds of flights axed due to industrial action. The business issued two profit warnings in four months.
Here we look at how the 16th richest man in Ireland spends his considerable wads of cash.
Cashed in £17million in preparation for wedding
O’Leary’s main residence is Gigginstown House, near Delvin in County Westmeath, which he bought as a bachelor in 1998 for £580k.
The Georgian mansion is set in 1,000 acres of countryside and encompasses five farms, run by a farm manager, where O’Leary himself breeds Angus cattle, running a herd of 500 cows.
He told the Irish Examiner: “Gigginstown in the early mornings of spring and summer frequently reminds me of why I work hard to pay for and maintain this beautiful part of Westmeath.
“I hope in time my children will share that passion and appreciate this land.”
Gigginstown House was also the venue for his lavish wedding in 2003 to Dublin banker Anita Farrell, now the mother of his four children – Matt, 13 , Luke, 12, Tianna, 10 and Zac, nine.
In the run up to the wedding, he sold £17 million worth of Ryanair shares to fund a huge renovation of the house – adding a huge extension, a new swimming pool and courtyard – and to pay for the lavish reception.
He also renovated the local church for the ceremony and splashed out a reported £250,000 on the ring.
Guests celebrated in three marquees in the garden – the main reception tent, a champagne tent and a chill out tent for those who wanted a respite from the celebrations, with the total cost reported as close to £1million.
Afterwards, O’Leary whisked his bride off to Mauritius for a honeymoon – joking “the reception will be cheap but the honeymoon is going to kill me.”
Dublin houses worth £16.5m and a £9m holiday home
But that’s not his only residence.
O’Leary, one of six kids born in Kanturk in County Cork, has built up an impressive property portfolio.
In 2006, he spent spent £8.3m on 10 Raglan Road, a five-bedroom Victorian semi-detached in Dublin’s swanky Embassy belt and three years later he added No 12, the next door property, for the recession hit price of £5.2m.
He joked that he bought the houses because his wife wanted “somewhere near to the granny” – but after extensive renovations he rented one house out at the eye-watering rent of £8,400 a month.
Last year he bought a 372 sq m, two bed mews house in Elgin Road with a “London-style garden” and a separate self-contained flat, for £3million.
He also owns several London houses, a stud farm in Suffolk and several commercial properties.
Last year, he reportedly splashed out more than £9million on a Baroque palace in Majorca.
The 2,838 square metre property in one of the most exclusive streets in Palma’s picturesque Old Town is hidden behind high walls and boasts three patios and a palm-fringed garden.
Race horses raking in £1m a time
The airline boss has an obsession with horse-racing and set up his own stud farm at Gigginstow House.
His partnership with top trainer Willie Mullins garnered 158 winners, including four Cheltenham winners.
His horse Rule The World won the 2016 Grand National and he won again, in 2018 and 2019 with Tiger Roll, raking in over £1million in prize money in two races.
The partnership won £2.6million in Ireland and another £1.6million from UK races, but that didn’t stop the miserly boss parting ways with Willie in a cost-cutting exercise.
Matt said: “He still got rid of the trainer. He’s not afraid to do it.”
£35k on summer holiday in the Algarve
The busy dad says he only has time for two breaks a year – one summer and one winter holiday – but he doesn’t mind splashing the cash to keep the family happy.
Summer holidays are spent in Majorca or the Algarve, at the Pine Cliffs Resort outside Albufeira, where a family villa costs £2,200 a night – making a fortnight’s stay £35k.
With a tennis camp and golf academy, he says it’s perfect for the kids.
“All I look for is peace and quiet – which is a forlorn hope. I’ll try to run the children off their feet and hope they’re so exhausted by about five or six o clock that I can put them to bed,” he told the Independent.
“Then I grab some dinner with Mrs O’Leary and it all starts again the following day. I come back to work for a rest.”
Before becoming a dad, O’Leary’s preferred ski destinations were Aspen and Vermont but he now favours the Suvretta House Hotel in St Moritz, which has a children’s ski school and costs £2,500 per person for a week.
The couple’s favourite place for a romantic getaway is the £2000 a night Villa St Michelle in Florence.
Penny-pincher who steals biros from hotels
The Irish businessman is not one for flashy sports cars either, but he does own a £169,000 Mercedes Benz S-Class.
In 2004, he bought a registered taxi plate for the car so he could legally make use of Dublin’s bus lanes to speed up his car journeys around the city.
After a media storm he eventually relinquished the plate and, instead, employs a driver with full taxi licence.
While it seems he can’t pass up investment in bricks and mortar and race horses, and will spend when it comes to family holidays, O’Leary’s reputation among colleagues rivals Ebenezer Scrooge.
At conferences he refuses to provide tea and coffee and he once said he steals biros from hotels so he can save money on pens.
His clothing spend is limited to “a few suits and open-neck casual shirts, jackets and jeans” which Matt Cooper says he buys from a local menswear shop in Mullingar and receives a monthly bill.
He adds: “It is not unusual for him to mark down the price when the invoice arrives.”
But he claims money is not important to him, once joking: “I might leave it all to someone in the pub so they could have the biggest party in the history of Christendom. At least they would get more out of it than I did.”