EasyJet deputy chairman Charles Gurassa is being seen as the favorite internal candidate to step to succeed outgoing chairman Sir Mike Rake, as the airline is reported to be pursuing a new aircraft order.


Gurassa, who became deputy in September 2011, has extensive travel industry experience having worked for Thomas Cook, British Airways, Thomson Travel and Tui AG.


Rake announced over the weekend that he is to step down as chairman in the summer after three years.


This comes ahead of the budget airline’s likely move into the FTSE 100 in March. The airline is currently the 89th biggest public company in the UK by market capitalisation,


The board reshuffle follows attempts by easyJet founder and biggest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou to oust Rake.


In the latest row, Sir Stelios threatened to sell his family’s entire 37% stake if the carrier went ahead with a new aircraft order.


Reports this morning suggest that the carrier is to defy Haji-Ioannou and seek shareholder approval for a 100-strong aircraft order as early as June. The new fuel-efficient aircraft would be replacements for those in the current 217-strong fleet, according to the Daily Telegraph.


Rake, also chairman of BT and deputy chairman of Barclays, will seek re-election at the forthcoming annual general meeting on February 21 to allow the easyJet board time to find a suitable replacement before stepping down in the summer.


He said: “In advance of the forthcoming AGM I wanted to make my position clear. EasyJet has by any definition enjoyed a period of success and profitable growth in the last three years. As this takes the airline to the threshold of entry to the FTSE 100 it is the right time for me to stand down.


“It has been a tremendous experience to chair easyJet over the last three years. EasyJet is a dynamic and successful company in an vitally important sector of the European economy.”


The airline said it had started the search for a successor and was reviewing “both internal and external” candidates.


Thanking Rake, Gurassa said:  “During this time he has overseen a more than doubling in the value of the company through the successful delivery of easyJet’s strategy of sustainable growth and returns, refreshed the board, appointed a new chief executive and finance director, introduced dividend payments and led the negotiation of a new brand licence agreement.”