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EasyJet Founder Steps Down As Chairman

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of EasyJet, said today that he would...

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of EasyJet, said today that he would step down as chairman of the airline next year and announced a shake-up of the board as he bowed to shareholder concerns about corporate governance at Europe's second largest low-cost airline.

The changes will see Sir Colin Chandler, currently deputy chairman of Smiths Group, take on the same role at EasyJet with immediate effect before succeeding Mr Haji-Ioannou as chairman at the company's annual general meeting in 2003.

Three of the six senior EasyJet managers are also stepping down from the board, cutting its size from 12 to 10 and leaving Mr Haji-Ioannou, Ray Webster, chief executive, and Chris Walton, finance director, as the only three remaining executive directors.
The group's shares, which launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2000 at 310p, fell 24p, or 4.5 per cent, to 500p in morning trading in London.

The board make-up at the airline and its corporate governance has recently been criticised by some institutional shareholders, unhappy with the presence of so many executives directors.

"I took note of the concerns of institutional investors and I want to ensure the company abides by the highest standards of corporate governance," Mr Haji-Ioannou said.

Mr Haji-Ioannou founded Easyjet in 1995 and floated the airline in November 2000. He still holds a 27.5 per cent stake in the company, which he controls through a 58.5 per cent family shareholding.

"I intend to remain a significant shareholder of this company for a very long time. However as I have made clear on several occasions in the past, I have no other source of income from EasyJet other than disposal of shares and, as I engage in new ventures, I may need to liquidate some of my stock from time to time," he said.

He will remain chairman of parent
Easygroup, which he uses to control a clutch of companies under the "Easy" brand, including a car rental business and a chain of internet cafes. He is considering moving into the cinema business next and could open his first screen in London at the end of the year.

Sir Colin remains chairman of Vickers Defence Systems, the armoured vehicle subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, and a director of Thales,the French defence electronics company.

Sir Colin said it was an honour to be invited to join the board and paid tribute to Mr Haji-Iannou: "To stand-down as the chairman of a company that Stelios has created speaks volumes about his commitment to the very highest standards of corporate governance and long-term shareholder value."