easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is offering up to £5mln out of his own pockets for whistle-blowers providing “useful information” to cancel a deal with Airbus.
These people would be offered “around £10,000 for some quick wins/tips” and would receive full legal cover.
The Greek entrepreneur said in an open letter that easyJet “simply cannot afford” to buy an additional 107 Airbus aircraft for £4.5bn, a sum that would “drive easyJet into insolvency by December 2020”.
“As the overwhelming evidence is that easyJet requires neither more loss-making planes nor massive liabilities, we need to establish why easyJet directors still want to pursue this route,” he said.
“We believe that Airbus is also controlling certain seemingly independent fund managers to invest in easyJet shares and to influence the easyJet strategy to buy more and more planes from Airbus.”
Founder wants directors out
Haji-Ioannou, who holds a 34% stake in the low-cost carrier, called for a shareholder meeting on 22 May to remove four “scoundrels” from the board, so he can force the remaining seven directors to terminate the deal.
“The removal of the directors should be viewed as a proxy vote for the termination of the Airbus contract,” he commented.
The founder addressed UK taxpayers, pointing out the board borrowed £600mln from under the Covid-19 government schemes, as well as customers, who have been promised a total of £1bn in vouchers following cancellations – money he says may not come back in case of insolvency.
Haji-Ioannou said pulling out of the agreement will benefit employees by potentially avoiding job cuts and shareholders who may risk losing their investments.
A spokesperson for easyJet told Proactive the board firmly rejects impropriety accusations.
“Given the significance of the potential transaction, easyJet appointed external independent accountants BDO to carry out an on-going review of the controls surrounding the fleet selection process which culminated in the 2013 Airbus Contract,” they said in an email.
“The audit report confirmed that robust procurement, project management and governance processes were in place and had been followed.”
Shares in the FTSE 100-listed firm rose 3% to 513.4p on Tuesday in the early afternoon.
–Adds easyJet’s comment–