easyJet Founder Seeks To Oust Airline’s CEO Tomorrow

The ongoing spat between UK low-cost airline easyJet and its founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is set to come to a head tomorrow. The extraordinary general meeting, held remotely, of course, will see a series of questions tabled by Sir Stelios and a shareholder vote held to decide on the ousting of four directors, including the CEO.

easyJet cancels flights to Italy
The easyJet situation is set to come to a head tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images

easyJet saga to come to a head on Friday

It’s time for the latest installment of the long-running saga of easyJet and its founder Sir Stelios. Following months of campaigning to get the bulk of the airline’s Airbus order canceled, the situation is set to come to a head at the end of this week, as an extraordinary general meeting has been called to draw a line under the situation finally.

As reported in Sky News today, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou will pose a series of probing questions to the board, in an attempt to discredit the order with Airbus. The European plane manufacturer was found guilty of “a massive scheme to offer and pay bribes,” according to authorities, and fined €3.6bn as a result.

Sir Stelios has long been trying to draw a connection between the issues at Airbus and easyJet’s outstanding 107 aircraft order from the company. So keen was he to see the £4.5bn order dropped, he’s even offered to pay up to £5m out of his own pocket to any whistleblower prepared to come forward with crucial information.

easyJet grounding grounded aircraft
The founder wants the Airbus order canceled. Photo: Getty Images

What Stelios wants to know

Sky News suggests that there are several questions drafted by Sir Stelios that he intends to table at the meeting. Some of these relate to the involvement of Airbus in the company, with the founder planning to probe whether the Toulouse-based manufacturer controls any shares in easyJet.

He also wants to know more about the directors’ relationships, including whether they have anything to do with three lawyers who had reportedly worked with Airbus in the past. As well as this, he wishes to ask the board whether they see the company as a going concern at present. Sky News quotes,

“easyGroup [Sir Stelios’ company] would like each director to apply the same test (that of being able to pay its debts as they fall due for the next 12 months as if the directors had to sign off an audit today.)

“If they are not willing to reply yes or no to this question, then the follow on question is why not.”

Sir Stellios Easyjet
Stelios wants to prove that the order was not made in good faith. Photo: Getty Images

Naturally, the Greek businessman is absolutely fuming that the meeting will be held in a socially distant manner. As Simon Goodley remarked in the Guardian,

“It is hard to see how something will not be lost with everyone out of lapel-grabbing reach.”

Still, the meeting will go ahead and, one way or another should bring some sort of closure to the situation. With easyJet still reeling from its nine million passenger data breach and already gearing up to begin flying again in June, an end to the saga will be most welcomed.

How will the vote go?

The culmination of Friday’s meeting will be a ballot on whether to oust four of easyJet’s directors. These are chairman John Barton, chief executive Johan Lundgren, finance director Andrew Findlay, and independent non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth.

As a shareholder, with his family, of some 34% of the airline, Sir Stelios has the power to invoke this vote. To have these people removed, he needs more than 50% of shares to be voted in favor of the motion.

Easyjet grounded
The airline’s CEO is confident in how the vote will go. Photo: Getty Images

Chief executive Johan Lundgren is confident in the outcome of the ballot. In an interview with the Telegraph, he stated that he’d spoken to almost half of the shareholder base about the situation. When asked if any of them would be supporting Sir Stelios, he commented,

“I don’t want to sound complacent, but none. Nil.”

It’s not clear at this stage whether other shareholders will vote against Haji-Ioannou, or whether they will simply abstain. As always, we’ll bring you the latest update to aviation’s best soap opera on Friday, when the outcome of the meeting is revealed.