The boardroom rumblings afflicting cheap holidays pioneer easyJet showed no signs of subsiding this week when founder and flamboyant entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou announced plans to begin a brand new airline by the name of Fastjet.
The website already exists, although anyone who logs on to Fastjet.com will merely find a teaser message declaring “Fastjet.com by Stelios coming soon”. Stelios still owns a 38 per cent share in easyJet, but has been embroiled in controversy with his creation, with many public spats about the future direction of the airline – and especially its expansion plans.
The most recent twist in the tale came last week, when he backed down over his demands for a shareholder vote to replace non-executive director Rigas Doganis after easyJet agreed to fork out £190 million in special and ordinary dividends for the first time in its history – a payment that will translate into £72 million for Sir Stelios and his family, according to the Financial Times. The main reason for his hostility towards Mr Doganis was the director’s backing for the purchase of new Airbus aircraft.
Now, the entrepreneur’s declaration of intent regarding Fastjet will put the cat among the pigeons once again, as today’s strong statement from easyJet shows.
“To the extent that any activity of Fastjet, Sir Stelios or any company controlled by him infringes or would infringe those rights, easyJet will take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders,” it declared.
“Sir Stelios also alleges that easyJet has breached the terms of the binding comfort letter between him and easyJet of 10 October 2010 and that that letter is no longer in force, claims which easyJet emphatically rejects.”
For his part, Sir Stelios accuses the airline of breaching the terms of a “comfort letter” signed last October – and thus rendering it void. From the consumers’ point of view, however, the prospect of another rival to easyJet could well lead to a price war, and more choice of carriers for those cheap holidays.