New Stelios plan crosses the Rubicon

Marion Dakers
EASYJET founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (pictured below) yesterday unveiled his plans to rival the budget airline he set up in 1995.

Stelios hopes to set up an Africa-focused carrier through Rubicon, an unprofitable software company that just over two weeks ago altered its investment strategy to focus on aviation.

Rubicon, using the Fastjet name that Stelios unveiled in September, will look at options for launching an airline focused on budget travel across Africa.

The plan could put Fastjet in direct competition with EasyJet, which flies to Morocco, Egypt and Jordan.

Stelios’ firm EasyGroup will get a five per cent stake in Rubicon, and will have the option to take a further 10 per cent.

He will also hand-pick four or five aviation experts to help Rubicon settle on a strategy. Rubicon’s chief executive Alistair Hancock, who set up the firm while studying for a computer sciences degree, and chairman Rob Burnham have scant experience outside the tech sector.

Rubicon said in July that it would change its aims after “struggl[ing] to achieve satisfactory levels of trading and associated revenues” as a software firm.

In November, African miner Lonrho took a 12.7 per cent stake in Rubicon, and the firm will take two seats on the board after a meeting next week.

Rubicon said Lonrho’s “deep knowledge of African business” would be helpful during its attempts to turn into an airline.