Editor's comment: Method in Stelios' madness
A view from Gareth Jones

Editor's comment: Method in Stelios' madness

Van Gogh once said that orange is the colour of insanity. If easyGroup founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou's recent antics are anything to go by, it looks like the artist was right on the money.

On the surface, Stelios' decision to sue easyJet, the budget airline he founded in 1995 and of which he still owns a minority stake, seems bizarre.

The squabble centres on the entrepreneur's claim that easyJet is violating the terms of its brand licence, which states that at least 75% of its revenue must be generated by its core aviation activity.

If the court rules in his favour, Stelios could strip the carrier of the easyJet brand. This would shake the £3bn a year business to its core, while also threatening the £280m that he and his family currently have tied up in easyJet. So what on earth is Stelios playing at?

Well, it turns out that the wheeler-dealer might not have taken complete leave of his senses. The airline's non-core services extend far beyond speedy boarding and in-flight drinks to include hotels and even holidays. These compete directly with Stelios' other easyGroup companies and could potentially stifle any further expansion of the brand portfolio.

As we reveal in our cover story, Stelios is gearing up for the launch of easyHolidays and easyFlights, underlining his determination to keep easyJet in check. To an extent, it doesn't matter whether or not the entrepreneur actually rolls out these services. What is interesting is his manipulation of the easy brand to send a clear message to his rivals: he won't be pushed around.

Judge and jury have yet to decide whether Stelios is in the right, but if they come down in his favour, we will have witnessed 'orange-washing' in action. Van Gogh might turn out to have been somewhat wide of the mark after all.