Former Royal Bank of Scotland chief to chair budget carrier EasyJet

A former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland has been named as the next chairman of budget airline EasyJet.

Stephen Hester led RBS, now branded NatWest Group, for five years after the financial crisis and he was also the chief executive of RSA Insurance, which was sold to Danish and Canadian buyers earlier this year.

Hester will join the board of Luton-headquartered EasyJet as a non-executive director on September 1 and is due to succeed John Barton as chairman at the start of December, at which point Barton will stand down having completed nearly nine years in the role.

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EasyJet described Hester as a “highly strategic and successful leader” with 35 years of “wide-ranging experience at major businesses, bringing a strong track record of value creation and listed board experience”.

EasyJet flies a number of Scottish routes including services from Edinburgh Airport, above. Picture: Ian GeorgesonEasyJet flies a number of Scottish routes including services from Edinburgh Airport, above. Picture: Ian Georgeson
EasyJet flies a number of Scottish routes including services from Edinburgh Airport, above. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Barton said: “His significant and varied experience leading major international businesses in regulated industries, coupled with his outstanding strategic thinking will serve the airline well as it leads the recovery in the post-pandemic era, complementing and adding to the skills of the existing board and leadership team.

"It has been an absolute privilege to be the chair for EasyJet for nearly nine years - it is a unique, dynamic and customer-centric business, driven by the passion of its people.

“I am proud of how EasyJet has not only navigated through the pandemic but has adapted and built back stronger leaving it extremely well positioned for the future.”

Julie Southern, the low-cost carrier’s senior independent director, added: "We are extremely pleased to have appointed a chair of Stephen's calibre.

“Throughout our comprehensive search Stephen consistently emerged as the stand out candidate, chosen by the board due to his exceptional experience, valuable commercial expertise, insightful and strategic leadership along with his ability to tackle complex challenges.

"Stephen's appointment will enable a smooth transition ahead of John reaching his nine-year tenure as chair. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank John for the outstanding contribution he has made to EasyJet.”

Hester will receive an annual fee on appointment as chair of £314,568.

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He said: "As a long-standing admirer of EasyJet, and from my own experience as a customer, I am very excited to be joining the airline and look forward to playing my part in driving its continued success.

"I see so many opportunities for this iconic brand in the coming years, all underpinned by its proven business model, unrivalled network and loyal customer base.”

Last month, EasyJet said it had maintained a “disciplined approach” to capacity and cash management during the third quarter of its financial year and, as a result, total cash burn during the quarter reduced to £55 million. It posted a headline loss before tax of £318m, which was in line with expectations.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren told investors: “During this quarter we have successfully managed through the continued challenges of the pandemic, using our operational responsiveness to capture demand while focusing on cost control and minimising cash burn.

“We will emerge from the pandemic with longer-term wins along-side baked in sustainable cost reductions, responding effectively and in ways our competitors don't or can't.”

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