Rake in line to be chairman as Chandler leaves easyJet early

Author: By Nick Clark

The budget airline said yesterday that Sir Michael Rake will take up the newly created role of deputy chairman from “early summer”. One source close to the situation said: “It is not set in stone, but this move annoints him as heir apparent.” Sir Michael is expected to make the step up to chairman in July.

Sir Colin, who will be 70 this year, announced at the group’s annual general meeting in February that he intended to step down this autumn.

This was widely interpreted as meaning in November, which is the end of the company’s financial year. But the group said yesterday that Sir Colin would instead quit on 1 July, when his notice period expires.

An insider said: “There is an element of frustration with the situation at the group. But also, after seven years and at the age of 70, Sir Colin wants to put in place an orderly succession process.”

Sir Michael was previously chairman of the accountancy group KPMG’s international business. He is currently head of the audit committee of Barclays as well as chairman of BT.

The source said: “Sir Michael needs to rearrange his business portfolio before his potential promotion.” The appointment is backed by Sir Stelios.

The senior independent director of the company, Sir David Michels, will act as interim chairman from July; it is understood, however, that he does not want the job full-time.

Yet the board remains at loggerheads with Sir Stelios, who owns 38 per cent of easyJet with his family. The fundamental disagreement, which erupted last November, relates to the company’s expansion plans.

Sir Stelios believes the group should dampen its growth strategy, under which it has more than 100 Airbus aircraft on order over the next three years, costing more than $5bn (£3.4 bn).

He fears that such a major expansion drive in the face of the global financial crisis could jeopardize the group’s existence.

He has also called for the company to pay shareholders a dividend for the first time in its history.

In November, the entrepreneur refused to approve the company’s annual accounts after “extensive discussions” with the board, although the issue was subsequently resolved at the AGM.

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