Haji-Ioannou, the airline’s largest shareholder, sought to oust four directors in a special shareholder vote when it demanded the cancellation of an order for £ 4.5 billion for more than 100 new planes which, according to him, would endanger the future of the airline. .
Haji-Ioannou hoped to oust CEO, Johan Lundgren, president, John Barton, chief financial officer, Andrew Findlay, and non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth on board’s refusal to cancel past aircraft order with Airbus in 2013.
While the final vote figures will be released later on Friday, Barton said it was clear from the votes cast before the meeting that each director’s dismissal resolutions would be rejected.
“Based on the proxy votes filed with our clerks before the meeting, we expect the four resolutions submitted to the meeting to be rejected,” he said. “I would like to thank the shareholders for showing this extraordinary support for the management of this company. I believe the board’s judgment and advice will position easyJet well for the challenges that the aviation industry will no doubt face in the years to come. “
The odds were against the success of Haji-Ioannou, Barton declaring at the meeting that he had obtained the right of proxy to vote at 180 million votes for the shareholders, which represented approximately 45% of the total shares of easyJet . The resolution to dismiss a director requires the support of more than 50% of the votes. Haji-Ioannou and his family control approximately 34% of the shares of easyJet.
Earlier this month, Haji-Ioannou offered £ 5 million to a whistleblower to provide information that could derail orders for 107 Airbus aircraft.
“In recent months, negative headlines and advertising have put unnecessary pressure on a dedicated management team and have had a negative impact on the reputation of this great British and European brand,” said Barton.
Haji-Ioannou asked management a number of questions during the meeting regarding the Airbus deal. One of them asked what incentives company officials had received from Airbus to place the order. “No incentive has been received by the company or its directors to purchase new aircraft,” said Barton. “The board of directors rejects any suggestion that it was involved in any irregularity. “
Responding to the question of whether Airbus had a stake in easyJet, directly or indirectly, Barton said he knew all the shareholders who owned at least 1% of the company and “Airbus is not one of them.”
Directors were also asked if they thought that, given the huge impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on the aircraft industry, easyJet remains a business in operation.
“To date and based on current probable scenarios and the current availability of funding, we believe we are in business,” said Barton, on behalf of all of the directors. “EasyJet maintains and has always had a solid balance sheet.” The airline has taken out £ 600 million in taxpayer-funded loans.
EasyJet was able to postpone the delivery of 24 Airbus aircraft to give it more financial flexibility, and Barton said the global deal “is integral to the company’s future success.”
Haji-Ioannou also asked about the financial cost of breaking the contract with Airbus. Barton said the contract did not include a clause allowing him to terminate the agreement due to the coronavirus crisis.
“The company has no right to unilaterally terminate the contract,” he said. “The one-time costs associated with termination would be very significant and taken with the future value of the contract, the termination would be extremely detrimental and would seriously affect the company’s ability to operate as a low-cost airline.”