YJET’S estranged founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou said yesterday he would vote against the budget airline’s plan to buy 135 new Airbus planes because they were not needed and their real cost had been kept secret.
Haji-Ioannou, better known as Stelios, founded Easyjet in 1995 but quit the board in 2010 after a row over strategy. He still has a 37 per cent stake and frequently disagrees with the airline on fleet expansion, executive pay and dividend policy, arguing that new jets hurt value for shareholders.
Easyjet announced last month it would buy 35 A320 aircraft and 100 new A320neo jets, with options for a further 100, adding that around two thirds of the new planes would be used to replace its ageing 156-seat A319s, the bulk of its fleet.
It did not reveal the value of the deal – which must be approved by major investors at a meeting on 11 July – but said it had negotiated a “very substantial” discount. EasyJet sent a detailed circular to shareholders late last month and airline executives have been meeting top institutional investors to discuss the order over the last two weeks, sources close to the airline said.
Stelios said the company circular threw up an “unexplained difference” between the $76m list price it gave for the planes and the $88m for the same plane published on the Airbus website.
“I believe these decisions have been made behind closed doors mostly by City insiders playing with other people’s money,” Stelios said in a statement yesterday.
“It is also conceivable that people close to Airbus have bought shares in easyJet in order to influence the vote.”
Easyjet declined to comment on Stelios’ remarks. Airbus also declined to comment.
Sources close to Easyjet chief exec Carolyn McCall said she is confident of winning approval for the deal from shareholders despite the opposition from Stelios.