Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary made a pre-tax profit of 4.16 million euros this week by exercising stock options in the carrier and immediately selling the shares in the market.
The carrier said on Friday that Mr O’Leary had bought 1 million shares at €8.345 the previous day under a stock option plan from which he is a beneficiary. He then sold the shares at €12.50 each, taking advantage of how the shares were trading at a premium to the price at which he was entitled to buy them.
Mr O’Leary, who has run Ryanair since 1994, made a pre-tax profit of €23.3 million last November by exercising options on 2.5 million shares and selling shares.
He continues to own nearly 3.9% of Ryanair, with his 44.1 million shares worth nearly €564 million, based on their Dublin closing price of €12.79 Friday.
Meanwhile, the long-serving chief executive is also enrolled in potentially the most lucrative incentive scheme in the Irish market.
While Mr O’Leary signed a five-year contract in early 2019 which halved his annual base salary and maximum bonus each to €500,000, it also included options to buy 10 million Ryanair shares to €11.12 each if its net profit exceeded €2 billion in any of the years, or if its share price exceeded €21 during a 28-day period between April this year and March 2024.
Ryanair last reported annual profit of €1 billion in its financial year to March 2020, just as Covid swept the world. Shares in the company, which have fallen nearly 20% in value over the past 12 months, are changing hands at a fraction of the €21 target.
However, Mr O’Leary told analysts in May he was “cautiously optimistic” that Ryanair would hit one of two option-related targets.
“If I don’t, well, shareholders have benefited from my leadership at a very reduced rate over the past three years,” he said at the time.