easyJet’s founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has revitalized his campaign to get the airline’s Airbus order canceled. It is being reported that he will today make an announcement offering a bounty of £5m ($6.2m) to any ‘whistleblower’ willing to offer up information that leads to the cancellation of more than 100 of the airline’s 107 aircraft order.
Stelios still unhappy with Airbus order
Like a dog with a bone, Stelios Haji-Ioannou is still on a mission to cancel easyJet’s £4.5bn ($5.5bn) Airbus order. The founder and principal shareholder of the low-cost airline has been bullishly demanding the order be dropped for several months now, threatening to oust directors and even the CEO if his voice is not heard.
Today, Sky News reports that Sir Stelios has taken a new tactic in his war against Airbus. The founder is expected to announce today that he will pay a reward to any ‘whistleblower’ in the easyJet ranks who supplies information leading to a substantial cancelation with Airbus.
Sir Stelios wants more than 100 aircraft slashed from the easyJet order, an order which currently stands at 107 aircraft, all Airbus A320neo family jets. At the beginning of April, the airline deferred delivery of 24 aircraft due to be delivered between this year and 2022, but as yet, no planes have been removed from its order books.
easyJet previously said it would make a decision on its Airbus order on the 22nd May. A spokesperson for the airline further told Simple Flying,
“As we have previously stated, the Board firmly rejects any insinuation that easyJet was involved in any impropriety.
“easyJet has maintained the highest standards of governance and scrutiny in respect of its aircraft procurement processes.
“Given the significance of the potential transaction, easyJet appointed external independent accountants BDO to carry out an on-going review of the controls surrounding the fleet selection process which culminated in the 2013 Airbus Contract. The audit report confirmed that robust procurement, project management and governance processes were in place and had been followed.”
A £5m reward
Sky News suggests that it has been given advanced notice of an announcement due to be made later today. It says that Sir Stelios will offer a £5m ($6.2m) bounty for any information leading to the cancellation of the bulk of the Airbus order.
The publication states that he will ask for information to be submitted to him in confidence and via email, and that any past or current easyJet or Airbus employee can contact him. He will also ask for information from suppliers to the airline. Sky News says that he will announce,
“As the overwhelming evidence is that easyJet requires neither more loss-making planes nor massive liabilities, we need to establish why easyJet directors still want to pursue this route.”
The £5m will come out of Sir Stelios’ own pocket and may be paid out in installments. He reportedly says that he is willing to make “stage payments,” estimated at around £10,000 ($12,000) for quick tips, with further payments to be made in order to maintain a dialogue with the whistleblower.
Legal bills covered
Sir Stelios also says he will pay any legal bills incurred by the informant, suggesting he is expecting a backlash from Airbus over the move. Sky News says he will further state,
“We are looking for small tips, anything from lavish entertainment at the Paris Air Show up to the equivalent of the QPR sponsorship fee.
“Any unexplained wealth and or any ostentatious spending by easyJet employees could also give us a hint.”
Haji-Ioannou has been hell-bent on proving that easyJet was a victim of the Airbus bribery case, something that the company admitted in January, leading to record fines. Airbus had to set aside €3.6bn ($3.9bn) to cover settlements with authorities in the US, France and the UK after confirming bribes were paid on an “endemic” basis to secure contracts for aircraft orders.
While the founder and shareholder may well have a point, it must be the last thing easyJet needs right now. Thousands of staff are currently furloughed, and although the airline has secured a £600m ($740m) government-backed loan, it still has a long way to go to come back from the coronavirus crisis.
What do you think about Sir Stelios’ latest move to get the Airbus order canceled? Let us know in the comments.