Dog fight over pilot seat at easyJet

Sir Stelios, the airline's majority shareholder, is gunning for the chairman's scalp. Lucy Tobin reports

When Sir Mike Rake was awarded the job of chairing easyJet's board just over two years ago, he was, he said, "delighted". The BT chairman who spent most of his career at KPMG claimed that he was "looking forward to being part of the continuing development of the business."

Today, Sir Mike might not be feeling quite so delighted. For at 3pm tomorrow, easyJet's founder and biggest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, will call for the airline's chairman's scalp at an extraordinary general meeting, with the only item on the agenda being the removal of Sir Mike from his post.

In the past, Sir Stelios' scraps with the easyJet board – which have centred on spending plans and shareholder returns – have been settled before being put to vote. The City warns that's unlikely this time. "This fight will go all the way to an actual vote, unlike past confrontations that have seen last minute compromises found," said one veteran transport analyst.

Sir Stelios' complaint is over Sir Mike's involvement with Barclays, where he is deputy chairman. When Sir Mike was named most likely successor to Marcus Agius after his resignation from the bank in the wake of its Libor scandal, Sir Stelios responded: "His lack of diligence at stopping or outing this scandal at one of Britain's major banks calls into question his ability to hold down four major public company roles simultaneously. 'Mr Conflict of Interest' has to let some of it go now."

Since then, Sir Mike has withdrawn from the race to be the bank's next chairman, but Sir Stelios maintains that easyJet shouldn't accept "any Barclays cast-offs" and claims that "Rake has no loyalty to or respect for our company [and had] strung along his board, shareholders and employees. If he's not good enough for Barclays then he's certainly not good enough for easyJet."

Most of the votes have already been cast, by post. Expectations are that Sir Mike's position looks safe. "I expect the board to win," said an aviation analyst. "However, I don't see that being the end of the activism from Sir Stelios."

Indeed, it's not the first time the airline founder has taken on Sir Mike – at the start of the year Sir Stelios mounted a campaign to reject the re-election of four directors including the chairman. When the votes were counted, easyJet stripped out Sir Stelios' 40 per cent stake to show Sir Mike was returned with 99.6 per cent of other investors' votes. Sir Stelios complained the airline treated him as a second-class citizen.

Then Sir Mike used easyJet's annual meeting to threaten legal action against the airline's founder, claiming Sir Stelios had run a campaign of "inappropriate and defamatory" attacks on the airline's executives.

Please welcome into the ring...

In the blue corner: Sir Michael Rake, 64

Supporter: Prince of Wales (He is a trustee of the prince's foundation)

Jobs: chairman of BT and easyJet, deputy chairman of Barclays, McGraw-Hill and the Financial Reporting Council; chairman of the private equity oversight group the Guidelines Monitoring Committee

Says: Sir Stelios has made "unnecessary, pointless and personalised" attacks on the board "involving a number of inaccurate and misleading statements, including inappropriate and defamatory assertions and innuendo". Adding: "He does make points that are valid, but a lot of what has been said is inaccurate or out of context."

In the red corner, Sir Stelios Ha Ji-Ioanou, 45

Supporter: Brent Hoberman, with whom he is founding a carsharing business.

Jobs: running easyGroup, watching easyJet, backing the start of African carrier FastJet, starting carsharing firm easyCar.

Says: “Mike Rake has strung along his board, shareholders and employees while plotting to take the top job at Barclays. The fact that this has taken so long shows Rake has no loyalty to or respect for our company. It is a disgraceful way to behave... It is now clear that even the City club of regulators and fund managers have given him the thumbs down.”

Suggested Topics
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trade Desk Specialist (Linux, Windows, FIX, Finance, Networks)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (Linux, Windows, FIX...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Project Manager - ETRM/CTRM

£70000 - £90000 per annum + Job Satisfaction: Harrington Starr: Project Manage...

C#.NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL,MVVM, SOA...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform