Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has drawn up plans to use the easyJet name to launch an online travel agency, if the low-cost airline he founded changes its name.
The budget airline is reviewing a possible rebranding if it is unable to reach an agreement with Stelios about future strategy and business operations. If this happened, the Greek travel tycoon would use the name to set up a rival to Expedia and Travelocity, reports the Times.
If the airline rebranded, Sir Stelios would be entitled to use the easyJet name - which he currently licenses the name to the airline for £1 a year - to start up another venture. He is understood to believe that online travel agencies offer better return on capital than airlines.
A spokesman for easyJet said that the board had considered rebranding as a worst-case scenario but did not believe there were grounds for the licensing agreement to be terminated.
The entrepreneur’s contingency planning for the brand comes amid rising tensions in his relationship with easyJet senior management. Sir Stelios, who controls 38 per cent of easyJet’s shares, resigned from the board last month in a disagreement over expansion plans. He wants to pursue a more conservative growth strategy with fewer new aircraft and pay shareholders a dividend instead.
A further dispute between Sir Stelios and easyJet’s management will be heard in the High Court next week. Sir Stelios believes easyJet has broken the terms of a licensing agreement that restricts it from receiving more than a quarter of its income from ancillary sources. EasyJet management disagrees and both sides have asked a judge to settle the dispute. The hearing is expected to begin on Thursday. Sir Stelios and Mr Harrison are likely to give evidence.
The two sides have tried to reach an out-of-court settlement. Under one plan, Sir Stelios would receive £3 million a year to drop the rule on how much ancillary revenue the airline can generate.