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CEO fought bruising battle with Ryanair
Dermot Mannion has quit his role as ceo of Aer Lingus after holding the post for four years.
During that time the Irish national carrier has fought off two hostile take over bids from rival Ryanair.
The low cost carrier, which has a 29% stake in Aer Lingus, only admitted defeat on its last bid of €748m just over two months ago.
Mr Mannion is stepping down immediately and Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington will become interim ceo until a permanent successor is found.
His resignation comes after Aer Lingus announced a €98m loss for 2008 and also predicted a deficit for the current year.
There is also shareholder unease that the airline is planning to go ahead and order aircraft for long haul routes at a time when the aviation industry is suffering from the global recession.
Aer Lingus is also due to start services from its new base at Gatwick Airport this spring.
The carrier has invested £100m in plans to start seven new routes from the airport in addition to the existing one to Dublin.
The new destinations are Knock, Faro, Malaga, Nice, Zurich, Munich and Vienna.
The plans were announced last December while Aer Lingus was still fighting off the Ryanair bid.
Mr Mannion said his decision to step down "will allow a new CEO to bring fresh thinking and new ideas to the business." Mr Barrington said: "Against the backdrop of challenging market conditions, the Board and management team are focused on maximising revenues, reducing operating costs while maintaining a strong balance sheet to deliver value for all shareholders."
Ryanair reacted to the news of Mr Mannion's resignation by calling for David Begg, president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and a non-executive board director, to be made ceo.
It said the appointment would recognise that the unions and the government, which both have stakes in the carrier, run Aer Lingus.
A statement by Ryanair said: "Aer Lingus lost its tenth Chief Executive over the past 16 years.
"To lose so many Chief Executives is neither an accident nor carelessness, but the product of a dysfunctional Board which has repeatedly prevented management from running the airline in the interests of its shareholders."