Stelios rants as Michels exits easyJet

SIR DAVID Michels, the former Hilton chief executive who once hoped to chair Marks & Spencer, said he would step down from the board of easyJet yesterday in his second such announcement in a month.

Michels, easyJet’s deputy chairman, will leave the airline at the end of this year, when he completes his second three-year term. Just three weeks ago he said he would step down as deputy chairman of retailer Marks & Spencer at the end of 2012, again after two terms.

EasyJet chairman Sir Michael Rake said Michels “made a very valuable contribution to the development of easyJet”, while on 5 May M&S chair Robert Swannell credited his efforts recruiting new chief executive Marc Bolland when Michels chaired its nomination committee.

But Michels’ exit from easyJet prompted a tirade from founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who accused him of destroying shareholder value and paying former chief executive Andrew Harrison £1m for just three months’ work to June 2010.

“I believe that David Michels has done the right thing by resigning from the board of easyJet today,” Stelios said in a statement.

Harrison left easyJet after clashing with Stelios for months over the airline’s accounts. However, Stelios blamed Michels, who as interim chairman reportedly offered Harrison the large salary to try and keep him at the firm, for “huge operational failures” last summer.

Michels has also been linked to governance controversy at M&S. As senior independent director there he allowed Rose to become executive chairman, which enraged shareholders. Michels remains chairman at wealth manager London & Capital and previously chaired Paramount Restaurants.

He retired from executive life in 2007 after 40 years running leisure and entertainment businesses, most prominently leading the £3.3bn sale of Hilton’s hotel arm to its US namesake Hilton Hotels Corporation.