A Canadian start-up airline is suing JetBlue founder David Neeleman, claiming he negatively interfered with their venture capital funding then gloated about it.
Vancouver-based Canada Jetlines Ltd. wants to offer Ryanair or EasyJet style ultra-low-cost service in Canada. Although founded in 2013, it has yet to take off the ground. Unlike Spirit and Frontier in the USA, which compete on a head-on basis at major legacy airline hubs, Jetlines plans to operate from secondary airports that have low fees and are ripe for growth. I wrote about Jetlines here. Obviously, the airline never took off in 2018…
> Read More: Jetlines – Canada’s New Ultra-Low-Cost Airline
A lack of funding is the primary reason Jetlines has not taken off. Last year, an investment bank told Jetlines it needed to hire a high-profile industry figure if it wanted to secure funding. Jetlines hired Lukas Johnson, the former Chief Commercial Officer of Allegiant, another ultra-low-cost carrier in the USA.
But less than six weeks later, Johnson was poached from Jetlines by Neeleman, who wanted him to work for his new start-up Moxy.
> Read More: Coming Soon: Moxy Airways?
The tortuous interference lawsuit, filed in Connecticut where Moxy is incorporated and Neeleman lives, claims Neeleman called the investment bank “to gloat” over having snagged Johnson. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges Neeleman’s intent “was to derail Jetlines’ relationship with the Bank and thereby to delay and hinder Jetlines from obtaining new financing and commencing operations as a Canadian ULCC. In that, he succeeded.”
Without a high-profile figure at the helm, Jetlines has yet to secure its funding. Neeleman has ridiculed the lawsuit, claiming he did not interfere and does not plan to operate Moxy in Canada.
I have no idea what they’re talking about.
It’s probably just a fishing expedition to get some money. I have no interest in going to Canada.
Having read the complaint, I see this lawsuit the way Neeleman does. What would be the motive in sinking Jetlines? Certainly Neeleman has a motive in hiring the best and brightest to run Moxy, but poaching someone from another company happens all the time. I find it far-fetched to believe that Neeleman would gloat to a bank about hurting Jetlines. Any penalties for concealing talks with Neeleman in violation of his fiduciary duties with Jetlines fall upon Johnson, not Neeleman or Moxy.
You can read the complaint here. It’s an interesting read and a great reminder not to engage in personal matters or other business on your work laptop…