EasyJet Plc appointed John Barton to replace Mike Rake as chairman starting next month as Europe’s No. 2 discount carrier presses ahead with plans to purchase new aircraft.
Barton, the chairman of British retailer Next Plc and insurance company Catlin Group Ltd., will join the EasyJet board as a non-executive director and take over from Rake when he steps down on May 1, the Luton, England-based airline said in a statement today.
EasyJet joined Britain’s benchmark FTSE 100 Index in March and has this year started new routes between Moscow and London and Milan and Rome. Barton, 68, has a “great understanding” of consumer markets because of his time at the U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer Next, according to David Bennett, the head of the EasyJet board’s nomination committee.
“My aim will be to ensure that the management team of EasyJet can continue to deliver profitable growth and market leading returns,” Barton said in the statement.
EasyJet shares climbed 0.5 percent by 8:29 a.m. in London. They have risen more than 50 percent in the year to date, valuing the company at 4.6 billion pounds ($7.1 billion).
Rake resigned after three years as chairman following clashes with EasyJet founder and biggest investor Stelios Haji Ioannou. He also sits on the board at BT Group Plc and Barclays Plc, connections that drove Stelios to demand his resignation last year. Other shareholders rejected the motion.
Stelios cut his family’s holding in January for the first time since 2004 and threatened to sell more shares if EasyJet goes through with a plan to buy new planes. The entrepreneur has said he wants management to target a 10 percent profit margin and boost dividend payouts to 50 percent, up from one-third now.
EasyJet has opened the bidding for new planes including the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320neo as part of a fleet expansion plan from 2017. The airline needs more aircraft as it seeks to grow its network and compete with larger discount carrier Ryanair Holdings Plc.
EasyJet is targeting a bigger share of Europe’s lucrative business-travel market through allocated seating, flexible tickets and the use of corporate agents.