EasyJet tycoon sues 'arrogant' O'Leary over Pinocchio ads
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary is to face a libel lawsuit over an advert which poked fun at a rival airline boss by depicting him as Pinocchio.
Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of British airline easyJet, yesterday announced that he had instructed a law firm specialising in libel actions to issue proceedings against Mr O'Leary, whom he branded "arrogant".
In a statement released last night, Mr Haji-Ioannou, the largest shareholder in easyJet, said: "My lawyers have today commenced High Court proceedings against Michael O'Leary and Ryanair for libelling me. Full details of my claim against them will be published later this month. It was about time someone was willing to spend the money to take this arrogant man to court for his despicable behaviour."
Mr Haji-Ioannou's action comes after adverts were placed by Ryanair which depicted him as Pinocchio and accused him of failing to publish easyJet's aircraft punctuality data.
After Mr Haji-Ioannou threatened yesterday to sue Ryanair over the ads, Mr O'Leary countered with an offer to settle the dispute by staging a running race around Trafalgar Square in London. However, Mr Haji-Ioannou appears not to have seen the funny side.
His statement continued: "With this advert, he (O'Leary) went too far and I am obliged to draw the line here. This is a libel action about my own reputation as an individual, not about comparing the two airlines. He called me a liar. I am not a liar. That is libellous, and I will seek substantial damages. See you in court, Michael." Mr Haji-Ioannou said he believed easyJet should publish its punctuality data and that he had asked Michael Rake, the airline's chairman, to do so.
In a statement last night, Mr O'Leary said:: "Stelios obviously can't run, but he can't hide, either. He's rattled as he knows that easyJet's punctuality is lousy. If he's too scared to run, then why doesn't he accept our challenge to a bout of sumo wrestling instead?"