NEXT chairman John Barton is to replace Sir Mike Rake at the helm of budget airline EasyJet at the start of next month.
Barton, who also chairs Lloyd’s insurance underwriter Catlin, said he was looking forward to “working with EasyJet’s people” but analysts said one of his key roles will be to repair relations with the carrier’s founder and major shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
Stelios attempted to have outgoing chair Rake ousted from the board last year amid a row over his other commitments – the former chairman of “big four” accounting firm KPMG also chairs BT and is deputy chairman of Barclays.
Rake, who has been in the role for three years, announced his retirement from EasyJet in January and last month the CBI said he would replace Sir Roger Carr as its president in June.
Barton was paid £250,000 for his role as chairman of fashion and furnishings retailer Next last year, and EasyJet said he was being appointed on the same terms as Rake, who received an annual fee of £300,000.
Chairing Catlin and Next is understood to take up about two days a week of Barton’s time, while he is expected to devote about one day a week to his role at the airline when he replaces Rake on 1 May.
David Bennett, chairman of EasyJet’s nominations committee, said: “John brings a wealth of plc board experience and valuable commercial expertise.
“He has chaired major quoted companies for over 16 years, has sound financial expertise and great understanding of high-profile, competitive consumer markets from his time at Next.”