Friday 22 May 2020 1:15 pm

Stelios accuses Easyjet of ‘voting fraud’ after failing to oust management

Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou accused the airline of “voting fraud” today after his attempt to oust key management figures was defeated.

Haji-Ioannou launched the attempt to remove the management team after a row over Easyjet’s continuation of a deal to buy 107 Airbus planes for £4.5bn which Haji-Ioannou says puts the future of the business at risk.

Easyjet today told a virtual shareholder meeting that Haji-Ioannou’s proposals had been defeated.

In a statement, Haji-Ioannou said: “The results constitute voting fraud as at least 15 per cent of the shares held by the three ‘strawmen’ (Invesco, 91 and Phoenix) are controlled by Airbus and were therefore ‘related parties’ in this vote.

“If the c60m shares in Easyjet that are controlled by Airbus that we know about, and there could be more, are excluded, my resolutions to remove the directors would have been approved by a margin of 133m shares to remove and 120m shares to retain.

“We will never stop in our quest to out these ‘strawmen’ and prove that these shares should not have been counted under the Listing Rules for related party transactions for listed companies.”

In a statement after the results of the votes were announced, Easyjet chair John Barton said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank shareholders for their support.

“The airline industry is facing unprecedented challenges and the board’s immediate priority has been to take the necessary steps to successfully guide Easyjet through this period of uncertainty.

“We are relentlessly focused on cash conservation and ensuring that Easyjet emerges from the Covid-19 crisis in a strong competitive position.

“The board seeks good relationships with all of the company’s shareholders and hopes to be able to re-engage constructively with Sir Stelios.”

Haji-Ioannou’s statement continued: “The chair of the Scoundrels gave this pathetic answer to my question about Airbus controlling shares:

‘I didn’t ask Airbus if they control any shares because I didn’t believe they do control any shares’ ( or weasel words to that effect). Ask the bloody question Mr Barton and get a bloody answer out of Airbus. Yes or no.”

Haji-Ioannou, who controls 34 per cent of the company, had previously offered a £5m reward to any “whistleblower” who can provide information leading to the cancellation of the airline’s 107-plane deal with Airbus.

He today said the reward had “already yielded some very useful results”.

In January, Airbus agreed to pay a record €3.6bn (£3.2bn) fine to authorities in the UK, US and France to settle claims that it engaged in wholesale bribery to win contracts.

Haji-Ioannou said he was attempting to find evidence of corruption in the relationship between Airbus and Easyjet in an attempt to stop the plane deal.

“If the Airbus contract was found to have been made using illegal bribes, it can be cancelled and Airbus sued for compensation which will increase the value of our easyJet shares,” he said.

Haji-Ioannou also said he would sue the company for misleading the market if it went bust in the next 12 months.

“The Scoundrels did say today that in their opinion the company is able to pay its debts as they fall due for the next 12 months. If the company goes bust before that 12 months’ period ends, I will sue the scoundrels personally for misleading the market today,” he said.