EasyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou said three majors institutional shareholders “controlled by Airbus” led to his failure to unseat the airline’s chairman and chief executive in Friday’s shareholder vote.

Haji-Ioannou, the carrier’s largest shareholder with a 34% stake, convened the special vote to remove four directors as he seeks the cancellation of a £4.5bn Airbus order that he has warned is the main risk to the company’s survival.

On Friday afternoon the FTSE 100 group said all four motions had been defeated, with in each case less than 43% of votes had been received in favour of removing chairman John Barton, chief executive Johan Lundgren, finance chief Andrew Findlay and the non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth.

Barton said: “I’d like to thank the shareholders for showing this extraordinary support for the management of this company. I believe the board’s judgment and guidance will position easyJet well for the challenges the aviation industry undoubtedly faces in the years ahead.”

In his own statement, Haji-Ioannou railed about the fairness of the vote, claiming that at least 15% of the shares are held by the three “strawmen” institutions “controlled by Airbus” and so should have been classed as related parties. 

If these three voters were excluded, he said, “my resolutions to remove the directors would have been approved”.

“We will never stop in our quest to out these ‘strawmen’ and prove that these shares should not have been counted under the (London Stock Exchange) Listing Rules for related party transactions for listed companies,” he said.

Having put up £5mln to tempt whistle-blowers to provide information to his cause, the knight of the realm said: “What remains now is for me to carry on the search for the reasons behind this very suspicious love affair between the scoundrels at easyJet and Airbus.”

He said whistle-blowing campaign “has already yielded some very useful results”.