easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is calling an emergency meeting of shareholders this week in a bid to stop the budget carrier’s “overzealous” expansion plans.
The call comes as easyJet’s new chief executive has hinted a third party will be called in to review the company’s business model, with the pace of growth the key area of investigation.
Sir Stelios has been at loggerheads with the board for the past two years over his determination to stall the company’s rapid growth. He is particularly keen to limit its fleet to the current 189 for the next four years, even if it involves renegotiating a contract with Airbus.
He is also keen for the company to start paying dividends, along the lines of arch rival Ryanair, which is planning to pay a €500m (£418m) special dividend later this year.
The Greek magnate, whose family controls 38 percent of easyJet shares, resigned from the board in May following the departure of chairman Sir Colin Chandler and finance director Jeff Carr.
Carolyn McCall, the former Guardian Media Group chief executive who took over at the airline last week, is believed to want a review of the 7.5 percent growth target, which was approved by the board in June 2009. She is expected to argue that the fragility of the UK recovery, including expected public spending cuts and the high price of oil, make such a target unrealistic.
Sir Stelios wants to see a dramatic slowdown in growth at the airline which currently has a fleet of 189 aircraft – even if it involves renegotiating a contract with Airbus. He is also keen for the company to start paying dividends, noting how easyJet’s main rival Ryanair is planning to pay a €500m (£418m) special dividend later this year.
Ms McCall is understood to want to re-examine the target of 7.5pc annual growth in seats approved by the board – including Sir Stelios when he was a non-executive director – in June 2009. He quit the board in May this year.
Despite the internal striff, easyJet remains a favourite with the city, and most analysts believe it is in a good position to win greater market share from rivals.