easyJet Founder threatens to sue airline executives

By Luke Will | April 8, 2020

Today the row between easyJet Founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the airline executives has worsened, with the founder threatening to sue the carrier if a large order for new Airbus aircraft is not cancelled.

Founder of easyJet, Stelios, has warned if they “spend a penny” on the £4.5bn order for new Airbus A320-series aircraft he will sue. The move comes after the UK Government issued the airline a £600m bailout loan in order to support operations during the Coronavirus outbreak. A previous warning by the founding member stated the airline could run out of money “around August” if the order is not cancelled, and described the order as a “misuse of taxpayers’ money”

The founder’s row with the carrier over a new Airbus A320 order | (c) easyJet

On Wednesday last week, he renewed demands to the airline to remove their Chief Finance Officer, Andrew Findlay, to “stop him from signing any more billion-pound cheques to Airbus every year”, further: “Unless vote of all shareholders is called without further delay, I will request that more directors be removed.” – A vote easyJet refused on Friday. Sir Stelios, who owns the biggest stake in the airline, wanted a meeting with easyJet shareholders so they can vote on removing CFO Findlay, and one of the company’s “Independent Directors”, Andreas Bierwirth.

The founder’s statement outlined that he would not invest anymore into the airline while the contract with Airbus remained in place:

“We must stop this river of money from the Bank of England via Luton airport to Toulouse where Airbus is based. This is a misuse of UK taxpayers’ money.

If the French government wants to spare Airbus from the cost of aircraft order cancellations, so they can keep French people in jobs, then they must give such support as French state aid and not expect a British airline to foot the bill.”

easyJet, like most carriers, is suffering from the Coronavirus outbreak | (c) easyJet

easyJet issued a statement that its board “fully supports” Mr. Findlay, despite the threats from Stelios to “personally sue executives for a breach of their fiduciary duties”. The £600m government loan is from the UK’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which aims to help British businesses, including airlines, during the pandemic, and is due to be repaid in March 2021; easyJet is said to have considered the loan as the ‘right course of action’ and is in talks with suppliers and partners to reduce costs to improve liquidity. The carrier further added the reason for rejecting the shareholder meeting was to prevent “unhelpeful distraction” from tackling the many immediate issues the carrier is facing.

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