If it wasn’t actually happening you’d think this was made up for a TV drama.
Stelios Haji-Ioannu the original founder and largest single share holder, who controls directly and indirect around 39% of the shares is engaged in a bitter battle with the easyJet board.
The basis of his argument isn’t unreasonable in, and of itself. He believes that the 107 A320 family jets ordered from Airbus are a direct threat to the future of the airline. The contract he believes, will cripple the airlines finances over the post-Covid19 period.
The board fundamentally disagrees, saying as it has all along, that the aircraft and a constant stream of renewals is essential to the business model. It did concede a restructuring of deliveries and has agreed it with Airbus.
The board also says that killing the contracts would leave the airline exposed to new aircraft problems when things pick up, never mind excruciating penalties for cancelling.
Stelios says that’s all urban myth, has come close to accusing the board of being bribed by Airbus (I mean show me an airline order they haven’t been fined over), and is offering £5 million to any whistleblower who will step up with evidence to prove it.
He’s even suggested to one journalist at a major U.K. newspaper that his questioning was sounding as though directed by Airbus, and labelled one of the easyJet board members he wants ousted “little more than an over paid holiday rep”.
He’s pushed and shoved the board into an emergency meeting this coming Friday, 22nd May, but needs 50.1% of the vote to get rid of the board members he wants ousted. The question is can he find 11% more to get his way?
If he does easyJet’s future is in jeopardy. The current board has done an exceptional job of steering the company through these times, it’s got cash in the bank and government support. It doesn’t need this ludicrous and irresponsible diversion with so much at stake.
It’s not like Stelios hasn’t been paid handsomely for his investment. This year he received over £60 million in profits, bringing the total earnings he’s made from the airline since he stepped down to over £600 million.
There has always been since he left, something of a regret, like its unfinished business. It’s all too personal and it’s frankly not good for the business or the thousands of staff depending on its future.
Friday, even if he looses, won’t be the end of it. Just another round in a long battle over quite what, nobody except Stelios really seems to know.
And no, I don’t own shares in easyJet. Or Airbus.