After it hosted a major Osborne speech, is Ryanair risking its own reputation by openly backing Remain?
Michael Jacobides, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, says Yes.
At a time of heightened political sensibility and populist bashing of “big business”, it feels risky for a corporation to take a clear stance on a key political debate. Brexit campaigners have already targeted Mark Carney for taking a view, despite the fact that his duties clearly call for an assessment, so Ryanair will take some heat. Still, this is a gamble that Ryanair has to take. Companies often help shape policy and, inasmuch as they are transparent, it is fair game for them to make their case. Provided that Ryanair as a company has established that Brexit will have a major adverse impact on its business, it owes it to its shareholders, employees and stakeholders to speak up. Corporate leaders who act in the interest of their companies and their stakeholders, rather than leveraging their power to advocate their personal political views, should join in the chorus, regardless of the risks, so that voters can know what the business world really believes.
Chris Rumfitt, founder and chief executive of Field Consulting, says No.
The referendum is one of the biggest decisions facing the country in decades and Ryanair is quite right to have its say. They have made their name as an “opinionated brand” and their chief executive is famously one of the most outspoken in British business. Every day, their customers and employees benefit from European freedom of movement, so they are just the right people to stand up for Remain. Other companies have also made their voice heard, but in putting ordinary passengers and staff at the centre of their case, Ryanair’s message is especially powerful. What are the risks? Well, if the Leave campaign wins, it might seek to make companies who fought against them pay a price. But frankly, from the perspective of most businesses, the thought of leaving the EU is such a gamble that if Leave does win, everything post 23 June looks like a black hole. Against that backdrop, there is no further threat the Outers hold against them.