The founder of easyJet has warned that he will sue airline executives if they spend a penny on an order for £ 4.5 billion for new planes.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ionnou said continuing the Airbus deal could prevent easyJet from paying £ 600m on government loans on time – and described the purchase as “misuse of taxpayers’ money” .
He previously warned that the company would run out of money by “around August” if the order was not canceled.
On Wednesday, he renewed his requests to the airline to withdraw its chief financial officer Andrew Findlay to “prevent him from signing more than one billion pound checks to Airbus each year.”
Sir Stelios – who has the largest stake in the airline – wants an easyJet shareholder meeting so they can vote on the dismissal of Mr. Findlay and Andreas Bierwirth, another director.
In a statement, he said, “Unless this vote of all shareholders is called without further delay, I will request the removal of more directors. “
EasyJet rejected its request for a shareholders’ meeting on Friday.
The low-cost airline immobilized all of its 330 aircraft as demand for flights plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sir Stelios stressed that he would not invest more money in the airline until the contract with the aircraft manufacturer was in place.
His statement continued: “We must stop this river of money from the Bank of England via Luton airport in Toulouse where Airbus is based.
“This is a misuse of British taxpayers’ money.
“If the French government wants to save Airbus the cost of canceling aircraft orders, so that they can keep the French in jobs, then they must provide support like French state aid and not expect a British airline to pay the bill. “
He warned that he would “personally prosecute” the officers for “breach of their fiduciary duties” if the company spends “a penny” on the Airbus order while failing to meet other financial obligations.
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EasyJet said in a statement that its board of directors “fully supports” Mr. Findlay.
The £ 600m government fund comes from the UK’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) to help businesses during the pandemic, which is due to be repaid in March 2021.
EasyJet sees the government loan as the right course of action and is in talks with suppliers and partners to reduce costs.
The airline also announced that it would borrow an additional $ 500 million (£ 406 million) from commercial creditors as part of its “goal of maximizing liquidity”.
An easyJet spokesperson said, “We remain absolutely focused on cutting corporate spending, engaging with all of our business partners and suppliers, including Airbus, and saving jobs and liquidity at short term.
“The board of directors fully supports Andrew Findlay, chief financial officer of easyJet, and maintains their collective decision to join the CCFF, made in the best interest of the company. “
The spokesman added that holding a general meeting “would be an unnecessary distraction” from tackling the many immediate problems facing society.