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Sir Stelios reveals questions for crunch easyJet vote to oust the airline’s boss

UK News | Published:

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who has a 34% stake in the airline, is claiming a conflict of interest between the board and manufacturer Airbus.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has fired off a series of questions attempting to expose links between the airline’s boardroom and engine manufacturer Airbus.

Sir Stelios, the airline’s largest shareholder, has called an investor meeting for Friday to try and force out chief executive Johan Lundgren, chairman John Barton and two non-executives, describing the people in charge of the company as “scoundrels”.

He will ask how many shares Airbus has in easyJet, directly or indirectly, call on the chairman to stand down from leading a meeting for his removal and whether any directors met with various Swiss lawyers.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren (EasyJet/PA)

The tycoon is also set to ask the board to confirm the company is still solvent.

He wants the carrier to terminate its entire £4.5 billion order with Airbus for new aircraft, claiming it will lead to the airline running out of money amid the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

EasyJet has agreed with the European manufacturer to defer the delivery of 24 new aircraft.

In Sir Stelios’s questions, published on Thursday, he said: “How many shares in easyJet PLC does Airbus control, directly or indirectly, via fund managers or otherwise?

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“If the answer of the directors is that “they don’t know” then a follow-up question is why didn’t they check with Airbus to find out?

“Why did the directors reject the easyGroup request to serve the standard statutory notice on Airbus for them to confirm or deny any interest in shares in easyJet?”

He follows up with asking whether a director met with a handful of Swiss lawyers at any point since 2013, adding: “If the directors are not willing to reply with a simple yes or no, then the follow up question is why not? It is relevant for the survival of easyJet to confirm or deny any such links.”

Finally, he asks: “In the opinion of each of the directors is easyJet PLC a “going concern” as of today? easyGroup would like each director to apply the same test (that of being able to pay its debts as they fall due for the next 12 months) as if the directors had to sign off an audit today.

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“If they are not willing to reply yes or no to this question, then the follow-on question is why not?”

The airline founder has already promised to pay £5 million to any whistleblower who can help him stop the Airbus deal.

An easyJet spokesman said previously: “The board firmly rejects any insinuation that easyJet was involved in any impropriety.”

The easyJet spokesman added: “Given the significance of the potential transaction, easyJet appointed external independent accountants BDO to carry out an ongoing 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.”

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