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Stelios Haji-Ioannou

21 September 2006
Stelios Haji-Ioannou

Overall ranking: 84 (new entrant)

Hoteliers' ranking: 21

Stelios Haji-Ioannou (or Stelios, as he prefers) is the chairman and founder of the easyGroup, which has been the launchpad for a veritable litter of ultra-cheap, no-frills "easy" spin-offs since Stelios revolutionised the European aviation since with his first economy venture, the maximum-budget easyJet airline.

He has turned his attention to the catering and hospitality sectors since 2005 with the launch of easyCruise, easyHotel and easyPizza.

Stelios - Career guide
Stelios, who was born in Greece in 1967, studied at the London School of Economics in 1984 and graduated from the City of London Cass Business School with an MSC in shipping trade and economics.

He set up his first venture, Stelmar Shipping at the age of 25, selling it off in 2005.

In 1995 he created the ground-breaking easyJet airline service which now operates more than 100 aircraft.

As the airline became a widely-recognised brand name, Stelios set up easyGroup in 1998 to work on brand extensions. easyGroup owns the "easy" name and licenses it to various easy-branded ventures.

Since 1999, easyGroup has spawned a diverse stable of offerings that include Internet cafés, car hire, online price comparisons, personal finance, cinemas, London buses, male toiletries, online recruitment, music downloads, mobile telephony and wrist watches.

2005 brought us easyCruise and the first easyHotels while 2006 saw the name attached the group's first franchised pizza delivery service.

In July 2006, easyHotels gained its first chief executive in Lawrence Alexander, the former commercial director of Jarvis Hotels.

Stelios - What we think
Stelios is a serial entrepreneur who has established more than 16 ventures since the age of 25. He created easyJet in his 28th year, gaining an entry in the 2000 Guinness Book of Records as the youngest-ever chairman of a scheduled airline.

He received a knighthood in 2006 for his services to entrepreneurship and the £727m fortune he and his family have amassed from aviation and shipping placed them in the 80th position in the 2006 Sunday Times Rich List.

Stelios successfully defied widespread predictions of failure with his first easyHotel, a 34-bedroom property that opened in London's Lexham Gardens in Kensington in August 2005.

Critics sneered at the stripped-down proposition. There were three bedroom sizes (from 60,000 to 80,000sq ft), all decorated in the easyGroup's distinctive orange, and only three with windows.

Facilities were simple - a double mattress and quilt, an en-suite bathroom with towels, air-conditioning, and pay-as-you-go TV. But so were the prices, which started from £20 a night, depending on the level of demand.

The London hotel and a franchised property that opened in Basle, Switzerland, the following month, were hitting occupancy levels of 97% from month one.

In May 2006 easyHotel announced no fewer than three new franchisees to roll-out the brand. In London, Splendid Hotel Group pledged to convert its 50-bedroom Easton hotel in Belgrave Road into a 78-bedroom easyHotel while Queensway Hospitality has made a commitment to convert the 40-bedroom Townhouse hotel in Earl's Court into a 70-bedroom easyHotel by the end of the year.

But the biggest expansion will be overseas. Dubai investment firm Istithmar signed a master franchise agreement to roll out up to 38 easyHotels in the Middle East, North Africa, India and Pakistan by 2011.

Its subsidiary, Istithmar Hotels, is expected to spend £220m building the hotels, which it will then manage. The deal will see eight hotels up and running by the end of 2007 in Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Morocco, followed by another 18 by December 2008. The remaining 12 properties will come on stream over the following three years.

After trialling the easyPizza home delivery service in Milton Keynes for a year, easyGroup felt ready to take on the likes of Domino's. In February 2006 it announced its first franchisee - Manhattan Pizza in Portsmouth -and, by April, had grown the business to 10 outlets serving towns along the South coast, such as Brighton, Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Eastbourne, Hastings, Hove, Peacehaven, Shoreham and Worthing.

The easyPizza comes in a standard 11.5in size, 10 toppings, and costs as little as £4.50 outside peak hours, rising during the traditionally busiest periods. Costs are kept to a minimum by "co-habitation" with an existing independent operator.

Although he has attracted criticism for his relentless legal pursuits of anyone using the name "easy", Stelios is also admired for his generosity. In 2005 he pledged £3m to the London School of Economics and the City of London Cass Business school to fund 100 scholarships for 10 years at each establishment. In 2006 he donated the €730,000 (£494,495) proceeds from the sale of his private art collection to a Greek children's charity.

In 1992, Stelios also founded the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association, a collection of ship owners and Cypriot business people promoting sustainable development

Stelios holds three honorary doctorates from Liverpool John Moores University, Cass Business School City University and the Cranfield School of Management.

Stelios - Further information

EasyGroup official websites

Stelios Haji-Ioannou profile on Wikipedia

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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