Stelios ready to back Gurassa as chairman of easyJet

Charles Gurassa has emerged as the leading internal contender to replace easyJet chairman Sir Mike Rake after the airline's founder and top shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, signalled he is likely to give his blessing.

A source close to Sir Stelios said relations with Mr Gurassa, deputy chairman since 2011, have always been civil and cordial – unlike with Sir Mike, who has been chairman for three years.

The easyJet founder voted against the re-election of Sir Mike at last year's annual meeting but did not oppose that of Mr Gurassa, a former boss at TUI Travel and Thomson Holidays.

Sir Stelios no longer runs the low-cost airline, now Britain's biggest, but wields influence through his family's near-37 per cent stake. He has fought plans to place a big order for new aircraft over fears it would be a financial risk. He has threatened to sell his entire shareholding, and recently dumped 1 per cent.

News that Sir Mike is quitting leaked at the weekend. Sir Stelios believes a new chairman must devote a large amount of time to easyJet, which is poised to enter the FTSE 100 index this spring after stellar growth.

Sir Mike juggles the chairmanship of BT and deputy chairmanship of Barclays, both FTSE 100 firms.

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