easyJet founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, lost out on Friday in his planned attempt to get rid of the airline’s CEO and chairman. The coup failed, with 99% of independent shareholders siding with the board.
Seeking to oust four of the low-cost carriers directors, Sir Stelios organized a special shareholders’ vote on Friday. Alas, he had little success, and his quest to get the main share of a 2013 order with Airbus canceled continues.
Sir Stelios was hoping shareholders would side with him in the removal of the chief executive, Johan Lundgren, the chairman, John Barton, the finance chief, Andrew Findlay, and the non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth over the board’s refusal to cancel the aircraft order.
His quarry was confident in the vote in their favor, however, and it seems they were right. All four resolutions were defeated, with over 99% of votes cast by independent shareholders.
Claims of voting fraud
easyJet’s founder claims that the results constitute voting fraud. He said that they were rigged, as a group of shareholders has ties to Airbus. Thus, they are conflicted and should not have been allowed to vote.
“If the circa 60 million shares in easyJet that are controlled by Airbus that we know about, and there could be more, are excluded, my resolutions to remove the directors would have been approved by a margin of 133 million shares to remove and 120 million shares to retain,” he said on the matter according to The Guardian.
Odds in favor of the board
The odds were against him from the start. The resolution to remove a director requires more than 50% of the votes. Sir Stelios and his family own about 38% of shares, and the airline’s chairman, John Barton, had been given the right to cast votes as a proxy, representing about 45% of total shares.
“On behalf of the Board I would like to thank shareholders for their support,” said Barton to the Guardian. “The Board seeks good relationships with all of the company’s shareholders and hopes to be able to re-engage constructively with Sir Stelios.”
When asked whether or nor Airbus owned any shares in easyJet, Barton said he personally knew everyone with a stake larger than 1%, and that the planemaker was not one of them.
Latest installment in a series
This is merely the latest chapter in Sir Stelios’ attempts to drop the Airbus order. Just earlier this month, the easyJet founder offered a reward of £5m ($6.2m) to anyone willing to disclose unfavorable information about the manufacturer that could lead to the order’s cancellation.
Sir Stelios is saying that there is evidence that the obligation to pay Airbus for the 107 aircraft order, which he has been trying to cancel for years, would drive the airline into insolvency by December this year. Barton says that the overall deal is “integral to the company’s future success.” The carrier has however, deferred delivery of 24 Airbus jets to provide it with financial leeway.
What do you think easyJet’s founder’s next move will be? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.