easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is planning to launch a new airline called Fastjet in an apparent bid to create a rival to the orange-branded budget carrier.
Sir Stelios informed easyJet’s board that he had already set up a website, www.fastjet.com, for the new airline, despite continuing to hold a 38 per cent stake in easyJet.
His move comes just three days after he withdrew a request for an extraordinary general meeting designed to oust non-executive director Rigas Doganis, and appeared willing to calm his long-running dispute over strategy with easyJet’s board.
Sir Stelios has instead escalated the challenge to the board, and warned it that in his view easyJet has breached the terms of a “binding comfort letter” signed in 2010, and considers it no longer in force.
A spokesman for Sir Stelios released the letter and said the easyJet founder "strongly believes" that the airline's directors had repeatedly breached a clause in the letter that stated: "The company and I remain committed to enhancing the reputation of the easyJet brand and the easy brand in general as well as that of myself as founder.”
The spokesman said Sir Stelios blamed "a smear campaign conducted by off the record briefings to journalists" for the breaches and said he had "terminated the effect of the letter for repudiatory breach and has rejected all payments offered under this letter since May 2011."
easyJet’s board said it “emphatically rejects” the allegation and would act to protect its rights.
“easyJet has a number of rights under its agreements with Sir Stelios and easyGroup IP Licensing Ltd (a subsidiary of easyGroup Holdings Limited) as described in the Circular to shareholders dated 16th November 2010,” it said in a statement.
“To the extent that any activity of Fastjet, Sir Stelios or any company controlled by him infringes or would infringe those rights, easyJet will take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders”
Last week EasyJet’s board announced a £190m return of capital to investors after strong trading for the past year, from which Sir Stelios and his family trust would gain £72.2m.
The new website reads simply: “Fastjet.com by Stelios. Coming soon!”