Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou lost his battle against the easyJet board yesterday as shareholders overwhelmingly backed its multi-million pound executive pay plans.
The budget carrier’s founder, who speaks for 37.4% of EasyJet shares, failed to convince enough investors to vote with him against the company’s remuneration report, as well as the re-election of four directors including chairman Sir Michael Rake.
The pay deal, which could see 10 executives receive shares worth around £8 million over the next three years, won 97% of shareholder’s votes, while Sir Michael was re-elected with 99.6% of votes.
Sir Michael said: “It’s clear from the votes cast that easyJet’s shareholders have overwhelmingly voted with the board and we thank them for their support.”
Three of the carrier’s largest institutional shareholders – Standard Life, Sanderson Asset Management and M&G – came out in favour of the board before the AGM and pledged their support.
The remuneration report passed with 55% of shareholder votes, including Sir Stelios’s option, while independent non-executive directors Adele Anderson, Keith Hammil and Rigas Doganis were re-elected with around 57% of votes.
Sir Michael, who was re-appointed as chairman with 56% of votes, told shareholders at the meeting in Luton that Sir Stelios originally backed many of the issues to which he is now opposed.
“Whilst these arrangements with Stelios and easyGroup worked well initially, approximately a year ago Stelios instigated a series of increasingly personalised attacks on the board and individual members involving a number of inaccurate and misleading statements,” he said.
“We have consistently refused to enter into this debate in public and have repeatedly encouraged Stelios to meet with us to discuss any issues that he might have. This, apart from one brief meeting, primarily in relation to remuneration, he has refused to do.”
Sir Michael added: “2011 was a record year for easyJet – it achieved its best ever operational performance, highest ever passenger numbers, high levels of customer satisfaction, highest ever profits and will pay its first ever dividends of around £200 million to shareholders.
“Shareholders have also benefited from a 29% increase in share price over the last 12 months. All of this being achieved against the background of a difficult macro environment.
“It’s clear from the votes cast that easyJet’s shareholders have overwhelmingly voted with the board and we thank them for their support.
“Over 99% of the shares voted by shareholders, other than Stelios and his family, were cast in favour of the board’s re-election and 97% were voted in favour of the company’s remuneration report.”