EasyJet founder takes airline to court in London

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A court battle got under way in London Monday pitching the flamboyant founder of low-cost airline easyJet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, against the company he started in 1995.

Haji-Ioannou's company easyGroup IP Licensing (EGIP) is arguing at the High Court against the direction in which the current board is taking the no-frills carrier.

He resigned as a non-executive director from the board in May but is still a major shareholder. Easyjet went public in 2000.

EGIP's specific argument is that easyJet is breaching the terms of a branding licence agreement struck at that time by increasing its income from non-ticket revenues beyond the agreed 25 percent of total.

"The wider dispute centres around the number of aircraft easyJet is purchasing and the strength and transparency of the case for doing so," EGIP's lawyer Michael Bloch told the court.

"As a shareholder, Sir Stelios is concerned that what he considers to be imprudent growth ties up capital, reduces ticket revenue per passenger, depresses profit margins and prevents easyJet paying dividends."

In recent years, the entrepreneur has focused on the "easy" group of companies, which apply the "easy" brand to products from car rentals to hotels.

The case is expected to last for around two weeks.

© 2010 AFP

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