EasyJet names former RBS boss Hester as chairman to steer airline’s recovery

EasyJet (EZJ.L) on Monday named former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester to succeed John Barton as chairman, as the budget airline seeks experienced leadership to help it navigate post-pandemic recovery.

Hester, 60, has more than three decades of experience in several industries, most recently serving as the chief executive of RSA Insurance. He was widely praised for restructuring RBS in the aftermath of its state bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.

“I am very much looking forward to working with Stephen (Hester) at this important time in our history, as we continue to … take advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead following the pandemic,” easyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement.

The British airline said last month it planned to fly 60% of its pre-pandemic capacity between July and September, compared with 17% of 2019 levels in the previous quarter, after it shed staff, cut its fleet and took on new debt to survive the crisis.

Hester, who will join the airline as a director in September, said he was “very excited” to be taking on the role of chairman from Dec. 1 after Barton steps down after nine years.

Shares of the London-listed company rose as much as 3% to 821.8 pence in morning trade following the announcement. The stock lost more than 40% of its value last year when COVID-19 hammered the aerospace industry.

EasyJet, which had posted a slightly smaller loss of 318.3 million pounds ($434.6 million) for the three months to June 30, has cautioned of limited visibility and ongoing uncertainty and did not provide guidance for the rest of the year.

Hester, a former investment banker and gardening enthusiast, will be paid 314,568 pounds a year, including remuneration for his duties as a non-executive director, the company said.

($1 = 0.7324 pounds)