Coronavirus: EasyJet founder to quiz board over Airbus links

May 21, 2020

The founder of easyJet will on Friday seek to establish the extent of the low-cost airline’s links to Airbus at a shareholder meeting he has convened to seek the ousting of four board members.

Sky News understands that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has tabled a series of questions to easyJet, including whether the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer controls any shares in the British airline - which on Thursday morning said it would resume flights in mid-June.

The entrepreneur, who along with his family controls 34% of easyJet's shares, wants it to cancel a £4.5bn aircraft order that he says will bankrupt the company he founded in 1995.

One source close to him said he wanted to know whether any of the airline's directors since 2013 had had links to three lawyers who have reportedly worked with Airbus or associated companies.

The manufacturer was fined €3.6bn by authorities in the UK, France and the US earlier this year for "a massive scheme to offer and pay bribes", according to authorities.

Sir Stelios has sought to draw a connection between Airbus's offences and easyJet's outstanding aircraft order throughout his two-month campaign to oust directors including its chairman and chief executive.

The easyJet founder also wants to know whether its board believe the company is "a 'going concern' as of today?"

"easyGroup [Sir Stelio's company] 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.

"If they are not willing to reply yes or no to this question, then the follow on question is why not."

In his submission to the company, the tycoon also questioned whether John Barton, easyJet's chairman, should be "chairing a meeting concerning his removal as a director".

Friday's meeting is regarded by some investors as being in the balance, since easyJet needs a majority of voting shareholders to actively oppose easyGroup's resolutions.

Johan Lundgren, whose position as chief executive is also being voted on, told The Sunday Telegraph that he had spoken to 45% of the company's shareholders - or a majority of those not controlled by Sir Stelios.

Asked whether any of them would be supporting Sir Stelios, Mr Lundgren reportedly said: "I don't want to sound complacent, but none. Nil."

It was unclear, however, whether any of those investors might simply abstain or decide not to vote.

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