easyJet founder puts price on Airbus’ head
Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of the British low-cost company easyJet and the main shareholder of the group, offers a reward of £5 million for any information that would lead to the cancellation of an Airbus order he judges cumbersome.
The fight continues between the businessman, whose family holds 34% of easyJet's shares, and the management of the Luton-based carrier. An order for 107 Airbus A320neo aircraft for a value of £4.5 billion (€5.13 billion) has been at the center of a war of influence within the company.
The board argues that this order is needed to renew the fleet and will help the airline gain market share once the coronavirus crisis is passed. It managed, however, to defer the deliveries of 24 A320neo and A321neo aircraft, that were previously expected between 2020 and 2022.
Yet for Haji-Ioannou, the order remains “the largest single threat to the solvency of the company." He qualified the directors of the board as "scoundrels" and Airbus as “the masters of bribery”, and suspects that some of the managers were corrupted by the European manufacturer.
In an attempt to force the cancellation, he offered a £5 million (€5.6 million) reward for information that would allow the cancellation of the order.
“If you are a current or past hard-working easyJet employee, or anyone else who has seen anything suspicious by anyone inside easyJet in their dealings with Airbus, you could get a reward from Stelios worth up to 5 million pounds,” he said in a statement.
Stelios also agreed "to make stage payments for engaging with any whistleblowers of around £10,000 for some quick tips and will pay more to maintain the dialogue", according to Sky News.
A general meeting will be held on May 22, 2020, preceded by a vote of shareholders regarding the removal of four directors of the board. “The removal of the directors should be viewed as a proxy vote for the termination of the Airbus contract,” Haji-Ioannou claims.
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