EasyJet says profits warnings not to blame for finance director departure

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EasyJet announced the departure yesterday of its finance director, Chris Walton, who came under pressure from investors to quit earlier this year after the budget airline's double profits warning.

EasyJet announced the departure yesterday of its finance director, Chris Walton, who came under pressure from investors to quit earlier this year after the budget airline's double profits warning.

Mr Walton is being replaced by Associated British Foods' finance director Jeff Carr, who will take up the £200,000-a-year post at easyJet early next year.

A spokesman for the Luton-based airline insisted that Mr Walton had not been ousted and was not leaving because of the profits warnings in May and June. He added that Mr Walton had told the board of his desire to leave the company "some months ago". However, he could not say whether this had pre-dated the two profits warnings.

Mr Walton will not receive a pay-off and has agreed to work out the bulk of his six-month notice period to ensure an orderly succession. He will, however, be allowed to keep his 861,000 share options, which are currently showing a paper profit of about £390,000.

EasyJet was heavily criticised for the manner in which it handled the two profits warnings. This compounded the damage done to its share price, which halved in the space of a month. Since then the airline has appointed a full-time investor relations manager.

The easyJet spokesman said that Mr Walton, an Australian who joined the business from Qantas, was "basically a transactions guy". As well as the flotation, he was also involved in the rights issue which easyJet launched two years ago to buy its low-cost rival Go. Sir Colin Chandler, easyJet's chairman, said he was "deeply grateful" to Mr Walton.

Meanwhile, easyJet fired a warning shot over the bows of the new owner of Luton airport, the Spanish toll road operator Abertis, not to try to increase airline charges following its £551m takeover of TBI. Toby Nichol, the airline's head of corporate communications, said: "They have paid a top price for TBI. If they think they can come in and recoup that by raising charges then they can get on the first easyJet flight back to Madrid."

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