Sir Stelios reignites easyJet feud in fury over remuneration
Friday 11 February 2011
The rapprochement between Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and easyJet proved all too brief yesterday when the airline's founder said he would vote down the £1m pay deal for its former chief executive Andrew Harrison at next week's annual meeting.
Mr Harrison left the airline last year after a dispute with Sir Stelios over easyJet's growth strategy and the rights to the "easy" name. Since his departure, Sir Stelios and the new chief executive, Carolyn McCall, appeared to be building bridges, agreeing a deal to settle the brand dispute last October.
But the feud with Mr Harrison re-surfaced yesterday. Sir Stelios – whose family still controls 38 per cent of easyJet – wrote to the chairman, Sir Michael Rake, to say he would vote against measures to pay Mr Harrison a £750,000 salary and £250,000 bonus for the period from April to September last year, despite his leaving at the end of June.
"I was not consulted on this package, either as a director or as a shareholder, as is customary with major shareholders," Sir Stelios said in his letter, accusing Mr Harrison of using the dispute to give himself "the upper hand" in his own pay negotiations.
The feud between Sir Stelios and Mr Harrison peaked last summer when the easyJet founder described the chief executive as "over-rated" and resigned from the board to pursue the matter as an activist shareholder.
Sir Stelios was no more forgiving in his letter to Sir Michael yesterday. He "favourably acknowledged" current executives' decisions to waive their bonuses in response to "the mess that the company was in last summer" because of crew shortages. But he blamed those shortages on decisions made by Mr Harrison the previous winter in an effort to boost the quarterly numbers without regard to the longer term consequences.
Mr Harrison said: "As CEO of easyJet my job was to implement the strategy agreed by the board. All aspects of my remuneration were determined by the remuneration committee and to the best of my knowledge were communicated to the full board."
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