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Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (Greek: Στέλιος Χατζηιωάννου), born 14 February 1967) is a British entrepreneur of Greek Cypriot origin, currently a resident of Monaco. He is the scion of a wealthy, shipowning family, but is best known for setting up easyJet, a highly successful and profitable low-cost airline, with start-up funds provided by his father, the beginning of a series of ventures under the Easy brand.[2]

Family and education

Haji-Ioannou, who prefers to be called[3] and is usually addressed by[4][5] his given name, Stelios, is the second of the three children of Loucas and Nedi Haji-Ioannou. He was born in Athens, Greece. His father's side originates from the Pedoulas village in the mountains of Cyprus, while his mother is from the Potsos family of Laneia village, outside the city of Limassol. After his secondary education in Athens, he studied Economics at the London School of Economics, graduating with a BSc in 1987. He went on to obtain an MSc in Shipping, Trade & Finance from Cass Business School.

Haji-Ioannou has subsequently been awarded four honorary doctorates from Liverpool John Moores University, Cass Business School,[6] Newcastle Business School[7] and Cranfield University.[8]

Early career

A self-labelled "serial entrepreneur", Haji-Ioannou started working in 1988 for his father's already successful shipping business, Troodos Shipping Co Ltd. When Stelios was 25, his father gave him 30 million pounds that he used to set up his own shipping company, Stelmar Shipping.[9] Haji-Ioannou floated the company on the NYSE in 2001. In 2005, Stelmar Shipping was sold to the OSG Group for approximately $1.3 billion.

Shipping disaster

In April 1991, the Troodos-owned M/T Haven was involved in an oil tanker disaster that resulted the death of five Europeans and the disgorging up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea - arguably the Mediterranean's worst-ever ecological disaster.[10] Stelios and his father faced manslaughter charges for the explosion on the M/T Haven.[11] The tanker was an elderly vessel, formerly named Amoco Haven, sister ship of the ill-starred Amoco Cadiz that had foundered in 1978. Stelios was accused of poor maintenance and charged, in Italy, with manslaughter and also intimidating and attempting to bribe witnesses. Stelios blamed the accident on an error by one of the surviving crew members.

The jury acquitted Stelios and the case was appealed. Subsequent demands against Stelios for compensation were dismissed by the courts.[10]

The Easy companies
Main article: EasyGroup

Haji-Ioannou started EasyJet in 1995 when he was 28. In 2000, EasyJet PLC was partially floated on the London Stock Exchange. He remains its largest single shareholder.

Nowadays, acting through his private investment vehicle, the EasyGroup, which owns the 'Easy' brand and licenses it to the various 'Easy'-branded ventures, including the airline, Haji-Ioannou continues to extend the brand, with mixed success, in the areas of travel, leisure, telecoms and personal finance.

EasyJet PLC, which is one of Europe's largest low cost airlines by revenues with a fleet of 175 (+64 orders) Jets and growing, carried 33 million passengers in 2006. The travel-related businesses also include:

"It's the least desirable aspect, but I don't think people are too worried about windows."
Stelios Haji-Ioannou, EasyGroup head, defending the windowless chambers in his London easyHotel, where rooms rent for £20 a night[12]

EasyCar, which offers low cost car rental in 2,000 locations globally[13]
EasyCruise, which attracts younger age groups to go cruising to various parts of the world[14][15]
EasyBus, which offers low cost bus transportation between airports and city centres[16]
EasyHotel, which offers low cost accommodation in city centres[17]

The businesses outside the travel industry include internet cafés, online price comparison, personal finance, cinema, male toiletries, online recruitment, pizza delivery, music downloads, mobile telephony, offices[18] and wrist watches.

In June 2006, Haji-Ioannou received a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for "services to entrepreneurship".

Fastjet
Main article: Fastjet

In September 2011 it was reported that Haji-Ioannou is planning to set up a new airline called Fastjet.[19]

Libel case

In 2009, Stelios brought proceedings in London's High Court over Ryanair adverts which appeared in The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and on Ryanair's website in January and February. The adverts featured a picture of Stelios in the style of Pinocchio and referred to him as "easyJet's Mr Late Again". The case was eventually settled out of court, with Stelios receiving an official apology from the airline and the sum of £50,100, which Stelios announced he'd donate to his philanthropic foundation.[20]

Tax exile

Stelios resides in Monaco for tax reasons,[21] as do some wealthy Britons, a situation that is being met with some criticism in the United Kingdom.[22]

Politics and public life

Haji-Ioannou is a member of the New Enterprise Council, a group set up to advise the Conservative Party on business policy. He stated at the time that this appointment did not reflect his political affiliations, adding "I agreed to be included in the group of entrepreneurs because I was assured it will be non-partisan. [There is] not much difference between Left and Right any more."[23]

On 1 April 2010, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Haji-Ioannou joined with twenty three other UK business leaders, including Marks & Spencer's Stuart Rose and Next's Simon Wolfson, criticising the Labour government's plans to raise National Insurance contribution rates.[24]

The character of Omar Baba in the BBC TV comedy Come Fly With Me was based on Stelios.[25]

Charity

Haji-Ioannou's foundation, The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, supports education,[26][27] entrepreneurial initiatives[28] and environmental initiatives[29] through providing funding and advice in the UK, Monaco, Greece and Cyprus.

The foundation donates each year scholarships for ten undergraduate students to study for a period of up to of three years at his alma mater, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and for ten postgraduate students at his other alma mater, the City University, London.

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