Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou suffers bruising defeat after he fails to oust four of airline’s directors
Easyjet’s outspoken founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has suffered a bruising defeat after he failed to oust four of the airline’s directors.
He accused the airline of ‘voting fraud’ after he lost a shareholder ballot to unseat bosses including chief executive Johan Lundgren and chairman John Barton.
Almost 60 per cent of shareholders opposed his motions, which also included sacking finance director Andrew Findlay and non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth.
In a tailspin: Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou accused the airline of ‘voting fraud’ after he lost a shareholder ballot to unseat bosses
The Greek-born entrepreneur called the meeting to protest against the board’s refusal to cancel a £4.5 billion deal for 107 planes with Airbus.
He believes the order will bankrupt the company as it contends with the coronavirus crisis – and has waged a war with management over it for the past two months, vowing to pick off directors.
Last week he even offered a bounty of up to £5m for anyone who could provide evidence that could get the contract scrapped.
After his loss he said the results ‘constitute voting fraud’ because at least 15 per cent of the shares were held by three ‘straw men’ organisations.
Stelios claimed these three investors, which included Invesco and Phoenix, are ‘controlled’ by Airbus and should not have been counted.
At the meeting, Stelios had asked the board if any shares were indeed controlled by Airbus.
Barton said he didn’t believe any were and that he had not asked Airbus – an answer which Stelios branded as ‘pathetic’.
Stelios said: ‘Ask the bloody question Mr Barton and get a bloody answer out of Airbus. Yes or no.’
Stelios went further still – accusing Findlay and former Easyjet directors, now-ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall and Stobart Group boss Warwick Brady, of having a secret dinner in 2016 with a lawyer in Switzerland he believes is linked to Airbus.
Easyjet later said the allegations were ‘simply not true’.
Stelios pledged to sue management if Easyjet goes bust later this year.
He set up the airline in 1995 and he and his family still own 34 per cent of shares.
To stay afloat during the crisis, Easyjet has grounded its entire fleet of 344 planes and sought a £600m loan from the Government.
The budget airline plans to restart flights across the UK and France next month.