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O’Leary facing libel action from easyJet boss over ad

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary is to face libel proceedings over an advert which poked fun at a rival airline boss by depicting him as Pinocchio.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of British airline easyJet, yesterday announced that he had instructed a law firm specialising in libel actions to issue proceedings against Mr O'Leary, whom he branded “arrogant”.

In a statement released last night, Mr Haji-Ioannou, the largest shareholder in easyJet, said: “It was about time someone was willing to spend the money to take this arrogant man to court for his despicable behaviour.”

Mr Haji-Ioannou's action comes after adverts were placed by Ryanair which depicted him as Pinocchio and accused him of failing to publish easyJet's aircraft punctuality data. After Mr Haji-Ioannou threatened yesterday to sue Ryanair over the ads, Mr O'Leary countered with an offer to settle the dispute by staging a running race around Trafalgar Square in London.

However, Mr Haji-Ioannou appears not to have seen the funny side. His statement added: “With this advert, he (O'Leary) went too far and I am obliged to draw the line here. He called me a liar. I am not a liar. That is libellous, and I will seek substantial damages.”

In a statement last night, Mr O'Leary said: “Stelios obviously can't run, but he can't hide, either. He's rattled as he knows that easyJet's punctuality is lousy.”

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