Thomas Cook Names Industry Outsider As CEO

May 24, 2012

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Debt-laden tour operator Thomas Cook has named travel industry outsider Harriet Green from British electrical components distributor Premier Farnell as chief executive to help turn it around.

Green, CEO of the FTSE 250 group since 2006 during which period she built its e-commerce operation, will succeed interim Thomas Cook chief executive Sam Weihagen at the end of July.

Her challenge is to rebuild a 171-year-old travel company which has been searching for a CEO since last August after dire trading that has led it to three profit warnings in the past 18 months and a 2010/11 loss of GBP£398 million (USD$625 million).

Chairman Frank Meysman said that Green "knows how to run and turn around a business, while putting technological developments at the forefront".

He shrugged off her lack of travel industry experience, saying she would bring a new perspective.

Stephen Anness, a fund manager at Invesco, Thomas Cook's largest shareholder with a 10.15 percent stake, said Green was a great hire.

"She brings with her experience of business turnaround and operational focus. This in combination with the travel experience already in Thomas Cook should allow the business to take the steps required to realise significant shareholder value."

Thomas Cook, hit by the civil unrest in North Africa last year, has seen the economic downturn in Britain hurt bookings.

Earlier this month, it sold its Indian business and agreed to sell and lease back 17 aircraft, providing around GBP£275 million to ease pressure on the company after its first-half loss widened.

Also this month, it said former Kwik-Fit finance boss Michael Healy would take over as chief financial officer from Paul Hollingworth, who will step down after helping secure a three-year funding deal worth USD$2.2 billion - its third refinancing in a year.

"We are ready for take off now. Things have stabilised over the last six months and we have a platform to continue to build on now," Meysman said.

(Reuters)