EasyJet founder Stelios goes to war with the airline's board

The refusal of EasyJet's board to cancel a 107-plane order from Airbus has prompted the airline's founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, to try to remove four directors, including the current chairman and CEO.

It’s been a turbulent week for EasyJet. It emerged on Tuesday that hackers have accessed millions of customers’ details, says Kevin Peachey on the BBC. The news came in the run-up to a showdown between EasyJet’s founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (pictured), and the budget airline’s board.

The board refuses to cancel a 107-plane order from Airbus, which has prompted Stelios to try to remove four directors, including the current chairman and CEO, says Simon Goodley in The Observer. While the board argues that cancellation will trigger penalty clauses, Stelios insists that the £4.5bn deal “will leave the carrier without enough cash to survive the coronavirus crisis”, and has offered a £5m reward for information scuppering the order.

You can see why Stelios is anxious, says Alex Brummer on This Is Money. EasyJet has been a “gusher” for him and his family, generating up to £620m in dividends over the years. And the controversial tycoon is “almost certainly right” that it is a mistake to commit to an expanded fleet at a time when “no one has any clarity on when the skies will clear”. 

Taking a “tough line” with Airbus “may well be the right thing to do”, especially given that the manufacturer is in “no position to negotiate hard”, says Oliver Shah in The Sunday Times. However, Stelios’s “wobbler” has destabilised the group at a “turbulent time” and will “do nothing to strengthen its hand with Airbus”. This spat is a reminder that while entrepreneurs have the “energy and the vision” to create businesses, “they often lack the patience or the tact to pilot them after they reach a certain size”.

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