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Two easyJet directors resign after board wins battle with founder

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EasyJet has said a further two board members are stepping down, just weeks after the airline won a bitter battle with its biggest shareholder.

Deputy chairman Charles Gurassa and director Andy Martin will follow finance boss Andrew Findlay out of the door, it was announced on Monday.

The company said both directors have been on the board for nine years and their resignations are “in line with corporate governance best practice”.

According to the Financial Reporting Council, a board member’s independence can be impaired if they have spent more than nine years in the job.

However, easyJet’s timing was questioned by Sir Stelios Hajo-Ioannou, its biggest shareholder.

Earlier this year, Sir Stelios launched a major battle against the airline he founded, in a bid to get it to drop a £4.5 billion contract to buy 107 aircraft from plane-maker Airbus.

Last month, the board claimed a decisive victory over the businessman when nearly all other shareholders voted against his proposal to fire four directors.

Sir Stelios had targeted Mr Findlay for removal alongside easyJet’s chief executive and chairman. Neither Mr Gurassa nor Mr Martin was on his list.

On Monday, the businessman said: “I find the current situation very bizarre. Two more scoundrels running for the hills following the CFO’s resignation just two weeks ago.

“This is a board that only 10 working days earlier was telling investors that this is not the time for regime change. It now seems to be happening anyway.

“The real question in my mind is … were Gurassa and Martin pushed or did they jump?”

Sir Stelios has accused easyJet of links to Marc Bonnant, a Swiss lawyer whose name appears in the Panama Papers leaks.

An earlier allegation that three former directors met Mr Bonnant in 2016 was rebuffed by easyJet, which said that two of the directors were in London at the time, meeting shareholders, including Sir Stelios’s easyGroup.

Sir Stelios added: “Are they leaving easyJet because they had dealings with the dodgy Panama Papers lawyer Marc Bonnant or are they tired of providing cover to those scoundrels that did? After all, resignation is typically the only remaining weapon for the honest NED (non-executive director).

“And it needs to be remembered that chairman John Barton still refuses to answer the questions about dealings with Bonnant. He refuses to hold an independent investigation.”

EasyJet has previously rejected Sir Stelios’s claims of impropriety or secret dealings in the Airbus contract.

On Monday, Mr Barton said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank both Charles and Andy for their very significant contribution to easyJet over the past nine years.

“We have benefited greatly from their wise counsel and I am pleased that we will continue to do so over the next few months as we navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. They will leave us with the board’s deep gratitude and best wishes.”

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