Stelios downplays chance of return as EasyJet chairman

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has increased his stake in EasyJet and is seeking the appointment of two nominees to the board.

But he has downplayed reports that he could return as chairman.

Haji-Ioannou has called on management of the airline he founded in 1995 to rein-in expansion because of the economic downturn and divert some cash to a first dividend payment to shareholders, although not until 2011.

The entrepreneur has increased his stake from 15.6% to just under 27%, with his sister holding a further 11.3%. However, Haji-Ioannou described the idea of him becoming chairman again as “extreme” and told the Financial Times: “I am pretty sure it will not be necessary.” He stepped down as EasyJet chairman in 2002 and said he has no desire to return.

Haji-Ioannou is owner of the EasyGroup, which has stakes in a series of companies including car rental firm EasyCar, EasyHotel and EasyCruise. He denied his own business is in any financial difficulty.

Relations between Sir Stelios and some of the EasyJet board may already be strained as the airline’s founder is taking legal action over use of the Easy brand by the carrier to cover the increasing number of travel services it offers.

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