Internal candidate Stephen Kavanagh gets top Aer Lingus job

Mr Kavanagh joined Aer Lingus in 1988 and became an executive in 2006

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Aer Lingus, the target of a £1bn takeover by the British Airways owner IAG, has named a 26-year veteran of the Irish airline as its next chief executive.

Stephen Kavanagh, 47, will take over in March from Christopher Müller, who is leaving at the end of the month to become chief executive at Malaysia Airlines. Mr Kavanagh’s appointment means there will be another voice on the board which is keen for IAG to take over the Irish carrier. Aer Lingus has given cautious backing to IAG’s €1.36bn (£1bn) approach, but the deal has become bogged down by concerns within the Irish government, which holds a 25 per cent stake.

A further 29.8 per cent is held by  Aer Lingus’s arch-rival Ryanair. Michael O’Leary’s budget airline was ordered last week by the Court of Appeal to reduce its holding to 5 per cent, but it plans to challenge that ruling.

Mr Kavanagh joined Aer Lingus in 1988 and became an executive in 2006, shortly before the airline’s stock-market listing. He rose to become chief commercial officer and, most recently, chief strategy and planning officer, which put him at the core of the takeover talks.

Colm Barrington, the chairman, said Mr Kavanagh had helped to transform Aer Lingus into a “strong, profitable airline with a resilient business model and an improved cost base”.