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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Easyjet's flamboyant flyer
Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Easyjet staff protesting about landing charges at Luton airport
Easyjet's founder has always sought publicity
Stelios Haji-Ioannou burst on to the British business scene with his bright orange-branded airline six and a half years ago.

He was 28 years old, and had already built up his shipping line, Stelmar Tankers, into a multi-million pound business.

Mr Haji-Ioannou is the son of a Greek shipping magnate.

As he has said himself, having a rich father certainly helps if you want to start up a business.

Courting publicity

Easyjet began with two Boeing 737s flying between Luton and Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou giving an interview at the launch of Easyeverything
Stelios Haji-Ioannou: Wants to launch one company a year

It was a cheap, no-frills, airline designed to attract customers from coaches and trains as well as from other airlines.

Mr Haji-Ioannou courted publicity from the beginning.

He has always been a fierce critic of his rivals, particularly British Airways.

And when BA launched its no-frills airline, Go, the Easyjet founder tried to hijack the event by booking a seat and turning up in his company's orange uniform.

Headaches

As Easyjet grew, its chief executive turned his mind to new enterprises.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou with the Prime Minister Tony Blair and Virgin founder Richard Branson
Easyjet's founder admires Richard Branson

The first offshoot was the Easyeverything internet cafe chain, now called Easyinternetcafe.

That has given its founder some headaches.

Last year Mr Haji-Ioannou had to put 15m of his own money into the company to save it from insolvency

Mr Haji-Ioannou describes himself as "a serial entrepreneur".

Brand custodian

His goal is to open one new company every year under the Easy brand.

Already his empire includes internet cafes, car rental and financial services.

Mr Haji-Ioannou's next target is the cinema business.

Now he is stepping further back from his first Easy company, the Easyjet founder says he can concentrate on being the Easy brand custodian.

There have been the obvious comparisons with Richard Branson and his Virgin group.

The big difference is that Mr Haji-Ioannou started his business life as a millionaire.

But he is happy to be compared with Mr Branson, who he sees as a role model.

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The BBC's Vicki Broadbent
"Stelios, as he likes to be known, has always treated business as a hobby."
See also:

18 Apr 02 | Business
Easyjet chairman resigns
07 Apr 02 | Business
Easyjet mulls big-screen venture
28 Sep 01 | Business
Stelios bails out EasyEverything
15 Nov 00 | Business
Easy approach to a jetset day
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