Bosses eject from easyJet and Aer Lingus

EasyJet's chairman Sir Colin Chandler is bailing out early. He may pass Aer Lingus' chief on the way down.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Chandler has been in the post seven years and was due to stay on till November, but is now stepping down immediately instead. The reason for his evasive action? He's apparently ‘fed up' with his ongoing scrap with easyJet's founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou - who has proven about as hands-off a shareholder in the airline as Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling will be with their interest in the UK's banks.

Stelios, who still owns the EasyGroup parent company, is a non-executive director at easyJet and owner of 26.9% of the shares. He's been critical of the airline's board for ploughing ahead with orders for 109 new Airbuses despite the recession, questioning its ‘optimistic assumptions about future revenues'. Given the turbulence in the air sector at the moment, he may have a point.

For Chandler it's a lesson in the perils of trying to fly a plane when the guy who built it is still sitting there in the cockpit, looking over his shoulder and muttering about the dials. Stelios is apparently now keen to push the new chairman for the right to nominate two non-executive directors, in return for giving up any rights he may have to take back the chairmanship.

Sir David Michels, the senior independent non-executive director, will take the controls until the budget airline can find a permanent replacement. Michels will be joined by Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT, who becomes deputy chairman in the summer, and is now favourite to rise to the chairman role.

Meanwhile, the fog is refusing to lift over at Aer Lingus, which today faced up to the sudden resignation of Dermot Mannion. The chief exec was apparently pushed out the plane by chairman Colm Barrington, which is perhaps not a huge surprise: the group reported a net loss of 108m euros for 2008.

Mannion certainly had his share of turbulence in his four years at the helm: he steered the airline out of state ownership; fended off two hostile takeover bids from Ryanair; controversially axed the Shannon to Heathrow service; endured attacks over a change in his contract to pay him up to 2.8m euros if Aer Lingus was taken over; and faced accusations that the board lied about its trading outlook when it was caught up in a two-year dogfight with Ryanair.

All that on top of the double hit of rising fuel costs and declining passenger volumes. Barrington is taking over the Aer Lingus role for now but, as with the easyJet job, it'll be a brave man who takes the wheel permanently against flak like that.  

In today's bulletin:

HSBC: more popular than the Government
New tax year, new tax hikes?
Bosses eject from easyJet and Aer Lingus
Twitter 'set for Google windfall'
Blackthorn backlash brewing 

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