Stelios to net £90m in shipping line sale

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of the low-cost airline easyJet, is likely to make almost £90m from the sale of the Greek shipping business he created 12 years ago.

The board of Stelmar Shipping announced yesterday that it had accepted a $843m (£438m) bid from the shipbuilder Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG). The deal values Stelmar at $48 a share and trumps a $38.55 offer worth $677m made last month by the American private equity firm Fortress Investment Group.

Stelios, who together with his brother owns 20 per cent of Stelmar, said the offer from OSG had vindicated his opposition to the Fortress bid, which he maintained undervalued Stelmar even though it was supported by the board of the company. The Fortress offer was subsequently voted down at a shareholders' meeting.

After the defeat, Stelmar's non-executives set up a new committee which excluded the management of the company, to consider bids for the business.

In a statement on his easy.com website yesterday, Stelios said he had no misgivings about the bid process this time but declined to expressly approve the OSG offer before the shareholder vote. "Like all Stelmar shareholders, I am delighted to have a new floor to our share price and I will be evaluating the deal in relation to market conditions closer to the vote date," he said.

Stelmar was the first business to be created by Stelios after he left his father's shipping business Troodos in 1992, aged 25, to branch out on his own. It listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001.

Apart from airlines, Stelios has since gone into car rental, cinemas, personal finance, hotels and, his latest venture, men's grooming products. A spokesman declined to say what Stelios would do with the money if the Stelmar takeover goes ahead.

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