Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has lost his libel case against the Daily Telegraph over an article that disputed the outspoken founder’s claims about three shareholders.
The suit related to an article published in May in which Telegraph journalist Ben Marlow wrote that the budget airline boss was engaging in “increasingly wild conspiracy theories”.
The article related to Haji-Ioannou’s accusations that three Easyjet shareholders were “strawmen” sent to block his efforts to cancel a £4.5bn order from Airbus.
Haji-Ioannou sued the newspaper and Marlow for libel, stating that the article implied he had made “false and malicious” claims about the fund managers.
The Greek-Cypriot billionaire argued that the allegations in the article were “untrue and seriously defamatory”.
But judge Rowena Collins Rice today dismissed the suit, ruling that the comments were an expression of the columnist’s opinion.
“On the understanding that I have determined that the reader would reach, I do not consider that that ordinary, reasonable reader would think worse of the claimant in any serious respect on the strength of this piece alone,” Rice wrote.
The lawsuit follows a bitter war of words between Easyjet and its forthright founder, who has accused the airline of voting fraud and branded his opposition on the board as “scoundrels”.
After failing in his efforts to oust key members of Easyjet management, Haji-Ioannou took aim at shareholders Invesco, Ninety One and Phoenix Asset Management, alleging that they were controlled by Airbus.
The founder has previously offered a £5m reward to any “whistleblower” who provided information leading to the cancellation of his company’s 107-plane deal with Airbus.
In a statement today Haji-Ioannou said the Telegraph and Marlow had been “let off the hook” and doubled down in his campaign against the airline’s management.
“Nothing that happened in court has changed that view,” he said in a statement.
“In effect Airbus uses fund managers to induce struggling airlines into buying more loss making aircraft. If anyone thinks this is in any way untrue, they can sue me for libel. To date nobody has had the guts to take that route.”
Airbus has been contacted for comment.