Aspiring African LCC Operator Retains EasyJet Founder Haji-Ioannou

 - December 15, 2011, 11:47 AM
Would-be low-cost airline owner Rubicon Diversified Investments (RDI) is seeking advice from Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of major European operator EasyJet, which flies single-aisle Airbus A320s. (Photo: Airbus)

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who established and whose family retains almost 40 percent of British low-cost carrier (LCC) EasyJet, has partnered with UK entrepreneurs wanting to buy aviation companies. With about $14 million in start-up capital, Rubicon Diversified Investments (RDI) is employing Haji-Ioannou to advise on a possible African-market LCC business model.

“These funds will [help] to pursue our strategic goals,” said RDI chairman Robert Burnham. “We look forward to an intense period of planning with Stelios and his team to build a major aviation business focused on Africa. Market reception to our strategic plans has been extremely positive.”

Haji-Ioannou’s EasyGroup will own 5 percent of RDI (with an option on another 10 percent), and receive a 10-year royalty fee for RDI’s use of EasyGroup’s recently established “fastjet.com” brand, plus $750,000 for six months’ advice.

Lonrho, a long-established Africa-focused conglomerate, has acquired 12.75 percent of RDI, which has named as directors Lonrho chairman David Lenigas and chief executive Geoffrey White. Lonrho, which owns Kenyan LCC Fly540, uses Haji-Ioannou’s EasyHotel brand for 50 establishments in Africa.

Fly540 operates ATR turboprops and a Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet. African LCC services remain essentially restricted to South Africa, where a few operators compete against South African Airways.