easyJet founder and major shareholder, Sir Stelos Haji-Ioannou, has informed easyJet of his plans to launch a new, rival airline. The new airline would be known as Fastjet and Stelios has already launched a website for the carrier. Stelios has previously contractually agreed "not to use his own name or a derivation of it to brand any other airline which flies to or from any country in Europe for a period of five years", a clause which he now considers invalid due to the easyJet’s use of “smear tactics” against him and breaching various other agreements, he alleges.
easyGroup: "Sir Stelios strongly believes that the directors of easyJet, via a smear campaign conducted by off-the-record briefings to journalists, have repeatedly breached the clause, so he has terminated the effect of the letter for repudiatory breach and has rejected all payments offered under this letter since May 2011." Company statement. Source: 26-Sep-2011.
Stelios’ move follows last week’s announcement that easyJet would pay a GBP150 million special dividend, something for which Stelios had long called. It is likely easyJet assumed the conflict was over, as Stelios withdrew his call for an EGM to discuss the ousting of non-executive director and board member Rigas Doganis. According to Sky News, some shareholders have called for Stelios to liquidate his 38% shareholding and allow management run the airline.
The Luton-based carrier said it has "a number of rights under its agreements with Sir Stelios and easyGroup IP Licensing Ltd", and stated it will "take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders" in the event actions by Sir Stelios, or any company controlled by him, infringe those rights. The airline also rejected Stelios' claim that it has breached the terms of the binding comfort letter between easyGroup and easyJet from 10-Oct-2010, and that the letter is no longer in effect. [more - original PR]