BT chairman, Sir Michael Rake, is joining easyJet as deputy chairman amid an ongoing dispute between founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the board over the low-cost carrier’s expansion strategy.
The move follows the resignation of chairman Sir Colin Chandler at the weekend.
Although he disclosed at February’s AGM that he would be leaving after seven years at the company, he has originally planned to working till the autumn but is now going in June.
David Michels, the former Hilton boss who is senior non-executive director at the airline, will become interim chairman from July 1, but has said he does not to want the job on a permanent basis.
Rake is expected to join in the summer and is not expected to formally commit to the chairman’s role until he has monitored the dispute between Sir Stelios and the board.
The spat dates back to last November when Sir Stelios took control of his sister’s shares in the company, raising his voting rights from 15.6 percent to 26.9 percent. He also called for his own representative to be appointed to the book then later refused to sign off the annual accounts.
The easyJet found is staunch adversary of the airline’s expansion strategy, which includes 109 Airbus aircraft on order for delivery by 2012 - though 45 of them are replacement aircraft.
While some of the heat has gone out of the row, Sir Stelios, who much of his personal wealth tied up in the airline, is still pushing hard for easyJet to renegotiate its contract with Airbus - even though it is likely to incur financial penalties for doing so.
This week he is taking the airline to a High Court claiming that easyJet may have broken an agreement stipulating that, as a condition of using the easyJet name, 75 percent of the carrier’s earnings must come from its core business. He argues that ancillary earnings from such things as hotel and car-hire bookings compete with other businesses in easyGroup.