EasyJet fends off bid to oust chief

EasyJet has fended off an attempt to oust its chairman in the latest spat between the low-cost airline's founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, and its directors.

A resolution to eject Sir Michael Rake, who is also deputy chairman of Barclays, failed to win the support of the majority of shares at a meeting at its Luton Airport base, with 53.3% rejecting the proposal.

However, because Sir Stelios (along with members of his family) controls 37.5% of the shares and not all shareholders voted, the result means that nearly 96% of the shares not under his control voted in favour of Sir Michael.

The airline's outspoken founder had argued that Sir Michael's role at Barclays would take up too much of his time in the wake of the Libor-rigging scandal which sent shockwaves through the British banking giant.

He first expressed concern about Sir Michael's position when it emerged he was a potential candidate to take over as Barclays chairman after Marcus Agius stepped down. Sir Michael ruled himself out and the role was filled on Thursday by Sir David Walker, yet Sir Stelios remained opposed to Sir Michael's position.

Sir Stelios said: "I hope this sad episode will highlight the need for tougher guidelines on the number of corporate directorships any one person can hold. The current practice of collecting them like Boy Scout badges - BT, Barclays, McGraw-Hill and easyJet - needs to end."

Sir Stelios has been at loggerheads with the easyJet board for some time. Earlier this year, he was defeated in his attempt to throw out a multimillion-pound pay deal for executives.

More than 97% of easyJet investors, apart from the stake owned by Sir Stelios and his family, voted to pass the airline's remuneration deal. He also failed to encourage enough investors to reject the re-election of four directors, including Sir Michael.

EasyJet is one of Europe's biggest airlines, employing more than 8,000 people. It flies 55 million passengers a year on more than 600 routes across 30 countries.

Sir Stelios founded easyJet in 1995 and resigned as chairman about 10 years ago, although he remained a director until 2010.