Tuesday 12 May 2020 1:22 pm

Easyjet founder offers £5m reward for Airbus deal 'whistleblower'

Easyjet’s founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is offering a £5m reward to any “whistleblower” who can provide information leading to the cancellation of the airline’s 107-plane deal with Airbus.

Haji-Ioannou has been attempting to force Easyjet’s board into scrapping the deal for months, saying the £4.5bn deal will leave the carrier without enough cash to survive the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement, the Greek-Cypriot businessman said that the “obligation to pay Airbus will drive easyJet into insolvency by December 2020”.

Today’s offer is the latest in a long-running campaign against Easyjet’s board, which has seen Haji-Ioannou call for the removal of four board members, including chief executive Johan Lundgren and chairman John Barton.

An extraordinary general meeting has been set for 22 May, at which shareholders will vote on the proposals.

This morning, Easyjet confirmed that major advisory agencies ISS, Glass Lewis and PIRC had all told shareholders to vote against Sir Stelios’ proposals. 

Last week Invesco, Phoenix Asset Management, and Ninety One, which together represent about 15 per cent of the carrier’s shares, said they would vote against the measures.

Haji-Ioannou is the airline’s largest shareholder, with 34 per cent of its stock. In order to pass, the resolutions will need 50 per cent of shareholders’ votes.

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In response to this morning’s offer from the airline’s founder, a spokesperson for the company said: 

“As we have previously stated, the Board firmly rejects any insinuation that easyJet was involved in any impropriety.

“Easyjet has maintained the highest standards of governance and scrutiny in respect of its aircraft procurement processes.

“Given the significance of the potential transaction, easyJet appointed external independent accountants BDO to carry out an on-going review of the controls surrounding the fleet selection process which culminated in the 2013 Airbus Contract. 

“The audit report confirmed that robust procurement, project management and governance processes were in place and had been followed.”

The carrier has previously said that it can survive a total grounding for up to nine months due to measures taken to bolster its finances.

These include deferring delivery of 24 of the ordered planes, large reductions in its spending plans and drawing down £600m from the Bank of England’s coronavirus finance scheme.