Thomas Cook head of retail Ian Derbyshire is to leave the company in the second high-profile departure from the group in eight days and the latest in a series this summer.
Derbyshire, who was poised to lead a retail merger with The Co-operative Travel and Midlands Co-operative, will be replaced by Simon Robinson, currently Thomas Cook managing director of e-commerce.
The announcement of his going, just a week after the departure of chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa, will inevitably be interpreted as a consequence of Thomas Cook’s profit warning last month and the collapse in its share price. However, Derbyshire’s departure was agreed some months ago. He said: “Leaving will be a wrench, but those who know me know how my family come first.”
He is the latest in a series of senior managers to depart, following managing director of mainstream tour operations Richard Calvert, who announced he was quitting in late June, and e-commerce private labels director Andy Washington who announced a switch to Expedia in May. Recent weeks have also seen the departure of Chris Harrison from Thomas Cook’s scheduled business division to independent agent Dawson and Sanderson, and a switch by northern region head of retail James Coughlan to Affinion International Travel.
Derbyshire was at the forefront of the drive to merge Thomas Cook and the Co-ops, a move fiercely championed by Fontenla-Novoa. This won a provisional go ahead from the Competition Commission last month and should proceed by October. Derbyshire had been at Thomas Cook for more than a decade.
His successor, Simon Robinson, is a fellow protege of Fontenla-Novoa. Robinson is a former director of retail sales and executive director of independent travel. He was an executive at Thomas Cook ahead of the merger with MyTravel in 2007 and took over as managing director of e-commerce in June last year.
Derbyshire will go to work for his family firm in the northwest after 26 years in the travel industry, having been at the Co-op and Holiday Autos before joining Thomas Cook in 2000. He took his current role in 2009.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Ian Derbyshire is leaving the company to take the helm at his family’s developing child activity business in the northwest.”
Derbyshire said: “The Co-op joint venture will be industry-changing – something that Thomas Cook excels at – and I will be the most avid onlooker as the deal is completed and the merged company comes to life. [But] after spending the last 18 years working away, it is now time to concentrate on my family and on taking our small, but successful, northwest venture to the next level.”
Sam Weihagen, Thomas Cook interim chief executive, said: “I’d like to thank Ian for his invaluable contribution over the past eleven years. He will be sorely missed but we wish Ian and his family every success in the future.”
Commenting on Robinson’s appointment, Weihagen said: “I’m very pleased he is taking on his new and enlarged role as he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience.”