Industry figures behind a serious bid to save Thomas Cook more than seven years ago, when debt first threatened the group’s future, say it could have saved the company from liquidation.
Clive Jacobs, owner and chairman of Travel Weekly parent Jacobs Media Group, and former Thomas Cook executive Terry Fisher put together a £400 million deal to acquire Cook in March 2012. But the bid was rejected without explanation.
They aimed to secure the company’s future after its share price plunged in 2011, leaving the group almost worthless, but saddled with close to £1 billion in debt. Jacobs and Fisher proposed to sell off Cook’s businesses in Germany and Scandinavia to pay down the debt and finance a turnaround in the UK.
Fisher had inside knowledge of the business having quit Cook in late 2010. He and Jacobs identified a series of problems in the UK business that they believed could be addressed with the burden of debt removed.
Jacobs described the debt, which sent Thomas Cook into liquidation last week, as “an anchor weighing down the business”.
He said: “It’s a travesty to see a company with a legacy of more than 100 years vanish through bad management and bad decisions.
“It’s tragic for the employees, for all the businesses and for suppliers, and it need not have happened.”
Jacobs describes Cook’s acquisition of The Co-operative Travel in 2011 as “a tipping point” that “set the business on a flawed path” when it should have been “reducing high street agencies, streamlining call centres and becoming much more online”.
He added: “The real issue was failing to put people in [the business] who understood what was wrong.”
Jacobs rejects the idea that blame for the collapse should be apportioned to Cook’s last three chief executives, saying: “It’s easy to attack what they were paid and the mistakes they made. But it’s the duty of the chairman and the board of a public company to ensure governance and [look after] shareholder interest.”
He added: “People need to be held accountable. The failure is the fault of those who were supposed to manage the executives.”
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