Britain’s easyJet names former RBS boss Stephen Hester as new chairman

Stephen Hester will succeed John Barton in December

May 31, 2011 - Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive Stephen Hester poses for a portrait at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Pawel Dwulit / The National

British airline easyJet has named former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester as its new chairman on Monday.

He takes over from John Barton who will step down from the role in December.

Mr Hester, who has more than 35 years of experience at major UK businesses, including the RBS Group and British Land, will join the company as non-executive director in September, before taking over as chairman on December 1.

He said he was excited to be joining the airline both as “a long-standing admirer of easyJet, and from my own experience as a customer” and looks forward to playing his 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,” Mr Hester said.

The budget airline said it carried out a “comprehensive search” to find a replacement for Mr Barton, who announced in May that he planned to leave the company after nine years in the role.

“Stephen’s appointment will enable a smooth transition ahead of John reaching his nine year tenure as chair,” said Julie Southern, senior independent director at easyJet.

“[Mr Barton] has successfully guided the business through many challenges and successes, including a significant increase in customers and growth of the network, the launch of our industry-leading sustainability strategy, as well as more recently having navigated the airline through the pandemic to ensure it is positioned to emerge with renewed strength.”

EasyJet plunged to a £1.27 billion ($1.73bn) loss in the 12 months to the end of September 2020 – its first loss in its 25-year history – as its business was hit by the fallout from the pandemic.

However, in July this year the company said it expected an increase in passenger numbers to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity in the final quarter of its fiscal year, from only 17 per cent in the previous quarter, as it announced that it had stabilised net debt.

Mr Hester, who most recently served as the chief executive of RSA Insurance, has also had stints with Abbey and Credit Suisse First Boston.

"His [Hester's] significant and varied experience leading major international businesses in regulated industries, coupled with his outstanding strategic thinking, will serve the airline well," Mr Barton said.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 12:32 PM