(Bloomberg) -- EasyJet Plc investors backed the U.K. airline’s senior management in a showdown with top shareholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou over aircraft-purchase plans that the founder-turned-activist is seeking to derail.
Investors voted to retain four directors including Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren, Chairman John Barton and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Findlay, based on an initial count, Barton said at a virtual meeting Friday. A final tally will be announced later.
Haji-Ioannou, EasyJet’s top investor with a 34% stake, has spent 15 years opposing the plans of successive leaders on the grounds that they’ve been too investment-intensive and offered insufficient returns. His latest campaign centered on claims that the purchase of more than 100 Airbus SE jets would drain cash as the Covid-19 crisis depresses demand for years.
The entrepreneur had demanded the cancellation of an order accounting for the bulk of 4.6 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) in capital spending through fiscal 2023 and lobbied for EasyJet’s existing fleet to be cut to 250 planes from 318.
Lundgren responded by deferring delivery of 24 aircraft, helping to reduce near-term expenditure by more than 1 billion pounds. At the same time he argued that EasyJet must be ready to renew its fleet when traffic finally rebounds, and that terms of the Airbus deal were uniquely flexible.
Invesco, Ninety One U.K. and Phoenix Asset Management, the three biggest investors after Haji-Ioannou, publicly pledged their support to the board.
Shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services, Glass Lewis and Pensions & Investment Research Consultants had also recommended that people vote against the resolutions.
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