Tui Travel has dismissed reports of tension within the group following the resignations of two non-executive directors and the group’s auditor, insisting the departures were unconnected.
Auditor KPMG resigned just before New Year after helping to reveal a £117-million accounting error extending back several years and directors Jeremy Hicks and Giles Thorley resigned on Friday. Hicks chaired the group’s audit committee.
Reports in The Guardian and The Observer newspapers at the weekend suggested Hicks and Thorley had stepped down over the restatement of accounts and its handling, and that at least “one major shareholder” was unhappy.
However, a Tui Travel spokeswoman told Travel Weekly: “We have not been contacted by any shareholders with concerns regarding recent stock exchange announcements.
“We can confirm that the non-executive directors’ decision to step down was not a result of the need to restate our 2009 results.”
She added: “We have issued announcements about KPMG not seeking re-election as the group’s auditors and the decision by Jeremy Hicks and Giles Thorley to step down from the board. The content of both announcements was agreed by all parties concerned.”
Hicks and Thorley had been on the Tui Travel board since 2007 after joining as directors of First Choice Holidays when it merged with Tui that year.
KPMG had acted as Tui Travel’s auditors since the merger. In a letter notifying Tui of its resignation, KPMG revealed its “relationship with certain directors” had become “increasingly strained” since the accounting issue came to light and said: “As a result we are not confident we could carry out an audit of the company to the appropriate standard.”
Tui Travel directors will face shareholders at an annual general meeting in London on February 3. The group is majority owned by German group Tui AG, whose chairman Michael Frenzel also chairs Tui Travel. The remaining shares are held primarily by financial institutions.
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