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EasyJet chairman Sir Mike Rake has narrowly survived a second attempt by the low cost airline’s founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, to remove him from the board as relations between the two City heavyweights reached a fresh low.
Sir Stelios called an extraordinary general meeting at easyJet’s headquarters in Luton to oust Sir Mike, who is also deputy chairman of Barclays.
The low cost airline’s founder had claimed Sir Mike was “severely compromised” by the recent Libor scandal at Barclays, accusing the City veteran of being the “dog that didn’t bark”.
Sir Stelios, who did not attend the EGM in person, needed 50pc of the vote to succeed but Sir Mike survived the bruising encounter, the latest episode in a long-running dispute, with 53.3pc of shareholder support. EasyJet said if the 37.2pc controlled by Sir Stelios and his family was removed from the 84.5pc of votes cast, only 2.7pc of remaining shares were in support of the founder.
After the vote, Sir Mike, who has been chairman of easyJet since 2010, vented his fury at Sir Stelios for his public outbursts. He said he had not met or spoken to Sir Stelios personally since early 2011 despite repeated invitations to sort out their differences behind closed doors.
“We wish to engage in constructive dialogue around the facts, not the hyperbole – most of which by the way is either totally inaccurate factually or has been corrected several times in writing.”
Sir Mike admitted that he was tired of the barrage of criticism from Sir Stelios but insisted he would stay at the company to protect other shareholders and to fulfil commitments he had made to the company.
“I don’t need this, I really don’t,” the City veteran admitted.
The EGM marked the second occasion in six months that Sir Stelios has tried to depose Sir Mike. In February, 43pc of the shareholder base voted against the chairman’s re-election at easyJet’s AGM after Sir Stelios raised questions over the airline’s remuneration policy.
There is no evidence that Sir Mike was aware of the deliberate manipulation of inter-bank lending rates at Barclays but Sir Stelios has also raised concerns over the number of positions he holds on major company boards.
In addition to his roles at Barclays and easyJet, Sir Mike is also chairman of telecoms giant BT and sits on the board of McGraw-Hill, the US group behind rating agency Standard & Poor’s.
Richard Shackleton, director of communications at Sir Stelio’s easyGroup, presented the airline’s board with a list of almost 25 questions at the EGM, many of which queried Sir Mike’s role at Barclays and his ability to devote adequate time to easyJet.
Mr Shackleton said he had a feeling “we will be doing this again at some stage soon” if Sir Stelios was not satisfied with the carrier’s responses.
Sir Stelios said in a statement after the meeting that all he had got back from the board was the usual “wishy-washy non-answers”.