Stelios goes on a 'little' £14m shopping spree

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The Independent Online

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of the low-cost airline easyJet, yesterday put the sale of about £14m worth of his shares in the business down to a "little shopping spree".

"In the last few days I went on a little shopping spree. I made firm commitments to buy a cruise ship capable of carrying 250 people for easyCruise, a 25-room hotel in London SW7 for easyHotel and a fleet of buses from Mercedes for easyBus," he said.

The purchases, he said, would bring the number of companies he had created in the last 11 years to 11 as he expanded the brand into other sectors. "So I thought it was prudent to rebalance my portfolio a little bit by converting some easyJet stock into cash. As I have always said, I will continue to do that from time to time at irregular intervals," he noted.

But he also underlined his ongoing commitment to the easyJet business. "I have not sold out of easyJet, nor do I intend to sell out," he said. After the sale of the 4 million shares, Mr Haji-Ioannou still owns 66.076 million shares in the business - a stake of about 16.6 per cent.

"I remain a great believer in the scalability and sustainability of the business model I developed. The recent European Commission ruling has exposed the opportunistic nature of the business model pursued by Michael O'Leary at Ryanair. I think easyJet will be the clear winner in European aviation," he said.

EasyJet shares closed the day down 8p at 354p after news of its founder's share sales.

In the bus sector, Stagecoach recently launched its new long-distance, no-frills service. It is offering customers £1 fares on its Megabus service which connects London with cities such as Birmingham, Plymouth, Bristol and Southampton. Mr Haji-Ioannou, meanwhile, is planning his own inter-city "easy" branded operation, which could be launched by the summer.