Easyjet’s chief executive is to quit the airline in June after four years to “seek new challenges”.
Andy Harrison will stay in post for the next six months to give the budget airline time to find a replacement, a statement from the board said yesterday (December 8).
Harrison has come under strong fire from founder and shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou who has made no secret of the fact he has been unhappy with the airline’s strategy.
Sir Stelios has been urging Harrison to rein in expansion and stop ordering so many planes and launching new routes during a period of falling demand.
Last month, easyJet’s released full-year profit figures which saw 65 per cent year-on-year plunge to the end of September and warned of a “tough winter” ahead.
Profits fell from £123.1 million last year to £43.7 million in the 12 months to September 30, not helped by a £98.5m bill for unhedged fuel.
The easyJet statement read: “Andy Harrison, chief executive officer, has indicated his desire to leave the company in order to seek new challenges.”
Sir Michael Rake will take over from Sir David Michels as the group’s chairman on January 1, 2010, when Sir David will become senior independent director.
Harrison said in a statement: “EasyJet is a great company with a strong management team and I am sure under Mike’s chairmanship, easyJet will continue to grow from strength to strength.
“I am looking forward to being part of the process of selecting my successor and am committed to ensuring a smooth transition. I have loved being a part of easyJet’s success, but am now looking forward to moving on to a new challenge.”
Harrison is the fifth senior executive of the airline to quit in the past year. Sir Colin Chandler, the chairman, and Jeff Carr, the finance director, and two other senior executives left.
Last autumn Sir Stelios refused to sign off the airline’s accounts because of Harrison’s growth strategy.