The European Commission has rubber-stamped the merger between part Stobart Group controlled Connect Airways Limited and Flybe Limited.

The EC has given the aviation joint venture merger control clearance, Stobart Group announced in a statement on the London Stock Exchange.

As previously reported, Connect Airways is 30 per cent owned by Stobart Aviation Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the group. Virgin Travel Group Limited also has a 30 per cent stake, while DLP Holdings S.à.r.l., a Luxembourg company wholly-owned by funds managed by Cyrus Capital Partners LP, has the remaining 40 per cent.

Stobart Group chief executive, Warwick Brady, said clearance from the EU meant that Connect Airways could plough ahead with its plans to operate a network of regional flights provided by a combination of Flybe and Stobart Air planes.

Connect Airways has also acquired Stobart Air's wet lease operations – which includes aircraft, crew and insurance – along with its aircraft leasing business. 

“We are pleased to have received merger control clearance which means that Connect Airways can now progress with an exciting future based on a low-cost customer-centric regional connectivity strategy,” said Mr Brady.

The clearance now finalises a what has proved to be a controversial takeover, which saw 179 of its shareholders back, but 105 vote against.

Flybe’s biggest shareholder, Hosking Partners, objected to the Connect Airways deal and ordered an inquiry. It also moved to oust its chairman Simon Laffin, but the company stood by him.

Meanwhile, Cumbria tycoon Andrew Tinkler, a significant shareholder himself, offered two capital injection lifelines if the deal fell through – the first by himself and the second backed by investors from the United States.

Both were rejected.

Mr Tinkler acquired a 12.23 per cent stake in the airline back in January. He described the purchase as an “investment decision” and stressed that he was not trying to disrupt the Connect Airways takeover in light of Stobart Group’s involvement.

It came amid a boardroom battle between Mr Tinkler and Stobart Group bosses, which ended with Mr Tinkler being sacked from the board of a company he once led as chief executive.

Stobart Group won the resultant High Court case over his dismissal in February with Mr Tinkler failing to overturn the decision on appeal last month.

As reported by in-Cumbria on Monday, Mr Tinkler has now launched the Save Stobart Group website in advance of the company’s AGM later this month, with the bonus payment to Mr Brady at the centre of this latest row between it and its former chief executive.