Stelios set to launch battle with easyJet

A BITTER dispute between Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and budget airline easyJet escalated over the weekend after it emerged that the easyGroup owner plans to campaign shareholders to join his revolt against the airline’s fleet expansion plans.

Haji-Ioannou is meeting this week with some of the airline’s largest shareholders, including Schroders, Standard Life and Capital Research, in a bid to rally more support from investors to stop the airline’s growth plans.

The move by Haji-Ioannou, who owns 38 per cent of the airline, came after he tendered his resignation from easyJet’s board at the end of last week.

Haji-Ioannou said easyJet’s plans “don’t make sense”.

At the heart of the clashes between the airline and Haji-Ioannou is an initiative to increase easyJet’s fleet in the medium term by 7.5 per cent a year, something the board agreed to in June last year.

Of Haji-Ioannou’s decision to step down from the board, chairman Sir Michael Rake said: “I regret and am surprised at Stelios’ decision to resign from the board.”

Haji-Ioannou, who was joined by easyGroup board member Bob Rothenberg, told the board that he wanted to “gain greater freedom to exercise easyGroup’s rights as a shareholder company to seek a change in the company’s strategy”.

The two are set to square off in court early next month over a branding dispute, that could see easyJet forced to ditch its name and logo.

It is expected to end in the autumn.

● Over the medium term, grow the fleet by 7.5 per cent a year.

● Existing plans to purchase 52 Airbus aircraft.

● Plans to expand European short-haul market share to 10 per cent.