Stelios ramps up battle to oust Michels

 
Marion Dakers
EASYJET founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has ramped up his campaign to oust senior independent director Sir David Michels, who he claims has too much power and not enough accountability.

Stelios, the owner of easyGroup and 37 per cent shareholder in easyJet, has written to the easyJet board to call for an emergency meeting to vote out “negligent” Michels immediately. He is also holding meetings with other shareholders to canvas support.

Michels said in May he would step down at the end of the year, after months of criticism from shareholders, but Stelios has called for his immediate departure to prevent him “collecting fees without having any long term loyalty to the company but continuing to play a part in aircraft orders and long term capex”.

Stelios also criticised Michels for ordering a hundred new planes in January, just days before the firm issued a profit warning.

“The request for a vote on Michels is the least disruptive on the operations of the company,” Stelios told City A.M. yesterday. “It is only designed to disrupt the buying of more aircraft from Airbus.”

EasyJet’s second largest shareholder, M&G Investments, did not return calls to comment yesterday. Easyjet has said it will write to its shareholders in due course and derided the request from Stelios as “an unnecessary distraction”.

Earlier this year, easyJet shareholders led by Stelios voted down the board’s 2010 pay packages.

TIMELINE | EASYJET’S FRAUGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH STELIOS
1995
Stelios Haji-Ioannou sets up easyJet using funds from his family’s shipping business

22 November 2000
EasyJet floats on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the firm at £777m

November 2002
Stelios resigns as easyJet chairman to spend more time on other ventures

May 2005
Stelios returns to the board as a non-exec; seven months later Andy Harrison joins as chief executive

August 2008
Stelios takes easyJet to court for using the “easy” brand to make money from ventures that compete with his other businesses

November 2008
Stelios raises his stake in easyJet and demands two additional board seats, after refusing to sign off the firm’s accounts

July 2010
Harrison quits after a row over strategy and is replaced by Carolyn McCall

May 2010
After failing to nominate board members, Stelios resigns again in order to lobby for strategy change as an investor

11 October 2010
EasyJet agrees a deal to pay Stelios to use the “easy” name on non-airline services

February 2011
Stelios rallies investors to vote down the board’s pay deal, in particular Harrison’s severance package