EasyJet’s founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has called for the ousting of the company’s chief executive and chairman.
The business tycoon accused the company of behaving like “scoundrels” over their decision to press ahead with a multibillion-pound deal to buy new aircraft from Airbus.
He said: “I have previously referred those in charge of easyJet as scoundrels. This remains my view.”
The founder is angry over the Airbus decision, which comes as the value of his shares in the airline lost around £1.2 billion in value in less than a month.
Since the crisis began, shares in easyJet have plummeted from 1,508p a share to just 616p on Thursday.
Sir Stelios explained he wanted chief executive Johan Lundgren out for “sending £1.5 billion of our money to Airbus whilst running an ‘aircraft parking lot’ for nine months”.
He added that the company’s chairman John Barton should go for “refusing to instigate an independent inquiry to investigate if the Airbus bribery techniques exposed by the UK court judgment on the 31st of January 2020 have been used in securing the easyJet order by Airbus”.
Since the coronavirus pandemic grounded easyJet’s entire operation, the company has turned to the Government for a £600 million loan.
But Sir Stelios warned: “What the scoundrels are not telling us at all is how much money the company will burn each week after the resumption of flying, which will be well in excess of the £40 million per week that they state that they burn whilst the fleet is grounded.
“Flying half empty planes will be heavily loss-making. That £40 million per week of cash burn is before the payments to Airbus… UK taxpayers should be really worried now that they will not see any of their money back in March 2021.”
The airline founder has already called for the heads of two non-executives at easyJet and wrote to the UK financial regulator to warn that the budget airline could be breaching market rules over its deal with plane manufacturer Airbus.
He wanted the deal to go to a shareholder vote, but the company would only say it will defer the delivery of 24 aircraft over the next two years.
The FTSE 100-listed airline said that in an effort to preserve liquidity amid uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, it has deferred 10 aircraft deliveries scheduled for financial year 2020, 12 deliveries for 2021 and two deliveries for 2022.
Sir Stelios added: “If I succeed in removing the four directors at the forthcoming meetings, I expect the rest of the board (seven of them left) to promote the COO to acting CEO to run the ‘aircraft parking lot’ and to serve notice of termination to Airbus.
“Any attempt to operate a fleet of more than 250 aircraft (down from 337 now) is bound to just burn a shed load of cash in 2021.
“I hope the remaining scoundrels will follow that fleet plan and cancel the order for new useless Airbus aircraft that will lose a lot of money.”