Thomas Cook Group

Thomas Cook Group plc was a British global travel group. It was formed on 19 June 2007 by the merger of Thomas Cook AG (itself the successor to Thomas Cook & Son) and MyTravel Group.[9] The group operated in two separate segments: a tour operator and an airline. It also operated travel agencies in Europe. On 23 September 2019 Thomas Cook Group and all UK entities went into compulsory liquidation.

Thomas Cook Group plc
Public
Traded asLSE: TCG
FWB: TCG
OTCMKTS: TCKGY
ISINGB00B1VYCH82
IndustryHospitality, tourism
FateCeased trading and entered into compulsory liquidation[1]
Predecessors
Successors
Founded5 July 1841; 179 years ago (1841-07-05) in Leicester, England as Thomas Cook[7]
Defunct23 September 2019; 12 months ago (23 September 2019)
HeadquartersLondon, England, United Kingdom
Area served
Global
Key people
Frank Meysman Non-Executive Chairman
Peter Fankhauser (CEO)
ProductsCharter and scheduled passenger airlines, package holidays, cruise lines, hotels and resorts
Services
  • Package Holidays
  • Flights
  • Hotels
RevenueIncrease £9,584 million (2018)[8]
Increase £250 million (2018)[8]
Decrease −£163 million (2018)[8]
Number of employees
21,000
DivisionsThomas Cook Group Airlines
Subsidiaries
Websitethomascookgroup.com
A Thomas Cook store in the United Kingdom, which is now operated by Hays Travel

Thomas Cook was listed on both the London Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The Thomas Cook Group ceased trading on 23 September 2019. Approximately 21,000 worldwide employees were left without jobs (including 9,000 UK staff) and 600,000 customers (150,000 from the UK) were left abroad, triggering the UK's largest peacetime repatriation.[10][11]

After the collapse, segments of the company were purchased by others, including the travel stores in the UK, the airlines, the Thomas Cook name and logo, the hotel brands and the tour operators. Thomas Cook India has not been affected, as Thomas Cook India is an entirely different entity since August 2012 when it was acquired by Fairfax Financial.[12]

HistoryEdit

FormationEdit

In February 2007, it was announced that Thomas Cook AG and MyTravel Group plc were to merge. The companies announced they expected to make savings of over £75 million a year, following the integration of the two businesses. Under the terms of the merger, the owners of Thomas Cook AG, KarstadtQuelle (later Arcandor), owned 52% of the new group. The shareholders of MyTravel Group owned the remaining 48% share.[13] The merger was completed in June 2007,[14] and took place through the formation of 'NewCo' which effectively purchased MyTravel and Thomas Cook and was then listed on the London Stock Exchange under the name of Thomas Cook Group plc.[15]

2008–2009Edit

 
Thomas Cook travel agency in Wetherby in 2017

On 14 February 2008, Thomas Cook bought booking website Hotels4U.com for £21.8 million.[16] On 6 March 2008, the company bought back its licence to operate the Thomas Cook brand in the Middle East and Asia from the Dubai Investment Group for an amount estimated to be around 249 million euros.[17] In April 2008 Thomas Cook bought the luxury travel firm Elegant Resorts from its founders Geoff Moss and Barbara Catchpole for an undisclosed figure.[18] The company took over Preston-based Gold Medal International, owner of NetFlights, in a deal worth £87 million in December 2008.[19]

On 8 March 2009, Thomas Cook signed a deal with Octopus Media Technology to host, upload, and provide an online video player for Thomas Cook TV.[20] In Spring 2009 Thomas Cook UK signed a deal with International Entertainment Supplier The E3 Group, to exclusively supply entertainment to the group.[21] In June 2009, Thomas Cook's majority shareholder Arcandor filed for bankruptcy, although the group was not affected.[22] Arcandor's shares in Thomas Cook were sold by its creditor banks in September 2009.[23]

2010–2015Edit

In July 2010, Thomas Cook Group bought German tourism company Öger Tours, which was owned by Vural Öger.[24]

 
Thomas Cook Travel agency in Bradford, with the 2001-2013 logo of the company

In 2010, the Thomas Cook Group reached an agreement with The Co-operative Group to merge its branch network with that of The Co-operative Travel. The merger was approved by the Competition Commission in 2011, and the joint venture was 66.5% owned by the Thomas Cook Group, 30% owned by The Co-operative Group and 3.5% owned by the Midlands Co-operative (renamed the Central England Co-operative in 2014).[25] The merger created the UK's largest travel network.[26] Thomas Cook's Going Places branded branches were rebranded under the Co-operative's brand.[27]

In May 2012, Harriet Green was appointed as the chief executive officer of Thomas Cook Group,[28] succeeding Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who was CEO from 2003 until August 2011. On 1 July 2013, Thomas Cook announced that it would cease publishing the Thomas Cook European Timetable, along with closure of the rest of its publishing business. The final edition of the timetable was published in August 2013,[29] but publication resumed in early 2014 under a new publishing company not affiliated with Thomas Cook.[30]

In February 2014 Thomas Cook Group sold Gold Medal Travel, including Netflights.com, to dnata for a reported £45 million.[31] On 26 November 2014, it was announced that Green was leaving with immediate effect, and that COO Peter Fankhauser would take over as CEO.[32]

Inquest into carbon monoxide poisoningEdit

In October 2006, two young British children, Christianne and Robert Shepherd aged seven and six years old respectively, died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty boiler while on a holiday in Corfu booked through Thomas Cook.[33] They were the first such deaths in the company's history.[34] Two Thomas Cook employees were subsequently amongst 11 defendants facing manslaughter by negligence charges at a criminal trial in Greece in 2010; both were acquitted and the company was cleared of any wrongdoing.[35]

In 2015, a UK inquest was held into the children's deaths; the jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing and concluded that the travel group had "breached its duty of care".[36][37]

After the inquest, The Mail on Sunday published a news story saying that Thomas Cook had received £3 million from the owners of the hotel where the children's deaths had occurred.[38] In response, Thomas Cook made a charitable donation of £1.5m to Unicef. However, the children's family said that they had not been consulted about this donation, which itself became the subject of criticism.[39] In UK newspaper The Independent Joanna Bourke wrote: "Nothing Thomas Cook could ever do would bring back the two children killed by carbon monoxide poisoning on a Greek holiday in 2006. But the firm's handling of the case has been a lesson in how not to manage a crisis".[38]

2016–2018Edit

In 2016 the Co-operative Group decided that it would exercise its option to quit the branch network joint venture. Thomas Cook Group announced it would buy out the stakes in The Co-operative Travel owned by The Co-operative Group and Central England Co-operative, taking full control of the retail network and re-branding the high street travel stores that had operated under the Co-operative brand gradually during 2017–18.[40][41]

In March 2017, Thomas Cook announced the sale of its Belgian airline operations to Lufthansa. As a result, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium was shut down by November 2017 with two aircraft and all traffic rights being handed to Brussels Airlines. Its three remaining aircraft were relocated to sister companies.[42][43]

In August 2018, a British couple, John and Susan Cooper aged 69 and 63 respectively, died on a Thomas Cook holiday, while staying at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. According to the Egyptian authorities, John died of a heart attack and Susan died of shock.[44] The couple's daughter, also present at the resort, blamed the faulty air conditioning system at the resort. Thomas Cook hurriedly evacuated around 300 holidaymakers staying in the same hotel after other guests started to fall ill.[45]

In November 2018, business analysts suggested that Thomas Cook should split the business to help recover its financial health.[46]

2019: Final year and collapseEdit

In February 2019, the Financial Times newspaper said that the Thomas Cook Group had received bids for its airline business, which includes Condor, and also the company as a whole.[47] In March 2019, Thomas Cook UK announced 21 travel office closures and the redundancy of 300 staff, justifying the decision with the fact that 64% of bookings had been made online in 2018.[48]

In May 2019 the company reported that it had secured £300 million of emergency funding from its banks.[49] Then in May 2019, the company announced a loss of £1.5 billion for the first half of its financial year, with £1.1 billion of the loss being attributable to goodwill write-downs.[50] In June 2019, Thomas Cook said that it was in talks with the Chinese company Fosun International with regard to the possible sale of its tour operator business.[51] On 28 August 2019, Thomas Cook announced that Fosun would pay £450 million for 75% of the firm's tour business and 25% of its airline.[52]

 
"R.I.P. Thomas Cook" – flowers at a branch of Thomas Cook in London

By September 2019, Thomas Cook Group was "the most shorted company on the London Stock Exchange,"[53] and reports began to emerge that the company was "in last minute negotiations" with bondholders, in order to approve the Fosun takeover.[54] Less than a week later, Thomas Cook asked HM Government to fund a £200 million gap in the company's finances to prevent the firm falling into administration.[55] The company had by that point secured £900m in funding as part of a debt-for-equity swap, including £450m from Fosun.[56]

Despite this, a late demand is reported to have emerged from the Group's funders, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax,[56] who insisted that the Group be sufficiently recapitalised to ensure operations were protected through to January, when bookings are traditionally quieter and liquidity would be challenging.[56][57] This demand meant the group needed an extra £200 million of funding to keep the company operational.[56] These efforts did not succeed, with the UK Government Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps rejecting any discussion of UK intervention.[58] Media reports had earlier indicated that a group, including the Turkish government and a group of Spanish hoteliers backed by Spanish ministers, had offered financial support in order to assist their domestic industries, but that rescue had failed because "the British government said it was not prepared to provide any financial guarantees to underpin the funding package."[59]

A final failed attempt to prevent the Thomas Cook Group from administration or liquidation took place the evening of 22 September 2019. At around midnight on 23 September, airports in the UK began to impound Thomas Cook aircraft upon arrival, citing "default in payment of airport charges".[60][61] Shortly after 02:00 BST, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that the Thomas Cook Group had entered liquidation and ceased operations with immediate effect, leaving around 600,000 tourists overseas.[62][63] The collapse of the company marked the end of a brand name that had been in continuous use since 1841.[64]

The collapse triggered an operation initiated by the CAA, aiming to repatriate 150,000 British citizens from abroad. The operation was codenamed 'Operation Matterhorn' and overtook the 2017 collapse of Monarch Airlines as the UK's biggest peacetime repatriation. Around 40 aircraft from various airlines, including easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, as well as at least one Airbus A380 from Malaysia Airlines,[65] were chartered.[66] Insurance companies took care of customers from Germany, one of the former company's biggest markets.[67]

David McHugh of CTV News reported that there were many factors that led to the collapse: a high debt load of £1.6 billion ($2 billion) combined with a changing travel market and online competition, events such as terrorist attacks in tourist destinations including Tunisia, the European heat wave in 2018, uncertainty caused by Brexit, and high fuel costs.[68]

Post-collapseEdit

On 9 October 2019, independent travel agent Hays Travel announced that it had acquired all 555 former Thomas Cook travel stores in the UK, and planned to re-employ a "significant number" of former employees.[2] Hays, which already operated 190 of their own stores, expected to retain over 25% of the retail staff, saving roughly 2,500 jobs.[69][70]

Meanwhile, on 30 October 2019, an investment consortium consisting of Norwegian property tycoon Petter Stordalen and private equity firms Altor and TDR Capital announced that they had acquired the assets of Thomas Cook Northern Europe (also known as the Ving Group) including the Ving, Spies and Tjäreborg travel agencies, Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, and the Sunwing and Sunprime hotel brands, with Stordalen and Altor owning 40% each and TDR Capital owning the remaining 20%. Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia was then rebranded as Sunclass Airlines.[3][4][71] There were reports on 31 October 2019 that Swiss-based investment firm LMEY Investments intended to re-acquire the Aldiana hotel brand, which it jointly owned with Thomas Cook, by buying Thomas Cook's 42% minority shareholding.[72][73]

Fosun International purchased the Thomas Cook name and logo, along with the Casa Cook and Cook's Club hotel brands, for £11 million on 1 November 2019.[5][6] Then, on 8 November 2019, it was announced that Thomas Cook's airport slots had been sold to easyJet and Jet2holidays for £36 million, with the former acquiring Gatwick and Bristol and the latter acquiring Birmingham, London Stansted and Manchester.[74] Thomas Cook Germany announced that it would close down on 1 December 2019, after having failed to find a buyer, with administrators in talks to sell Thomas Cook Germany's tour operators Öger Tours, Bucher Reisen, Neckermann and Air Marin and find buyers for hotel brands Sentido and Smartline.[75]

Neset Kockar, the chairman of Turkish tour operator Anex Tours, acquired Russian tour operator Intourist from Thomas Cook's liquidators on 15 November 2019.[76] Meanwhile, Anex Tours acquired Thomas Cook Germany's tour operators Öger Tours and Bucher Reisen, saving 84 jobs, on 21 November 2019.[77][78] Anex Tours also acquired the trademark rights for tour operator Neckermann Reisen from Thomas Cook Germany's liquidators on 2 January 2020.[79]

The German travel group DER Touristik acquired the Sentido hotel brand, with the deal subject to antitrust approval, on 4 December 2019.[80][81] Thomas Cook Balearics had closed down after becoming insolvent on 26 December 2019.[82]

On 24 January 2020, it was announced that Polish carrier LOT Polish Airlines had acquired German airline Condor, with the acquisition expected to be completed by April 2020 once antitrust approval had been secured.[83] However, on 13 April 2020, it was announced that LOT Polish Airlines had withdrawn its offer to acquire German airline Condor,[84] with the German government agreeing to support Condor with emergency liquidity.[85] The German airline Thomas Cook Aviation filed for bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic on 2 April 2020.[86]

On 16 September 2020, Fosun relaunched Thomas Cook as an online travel company with 50 employees.[87]

OwnershipEdit

At the time of the 2007 merger, 52% of the shares in the new company were held by the German mail-order and department store company Arcandor (the former owner of Thomas Cook AG) and 48% owned by the shareholders of MyTravel Group. Arcandor filed for bankruptcy in June 2009,[22] and its shares in Thomas Cook were sold in September 2009.[23]

As of June 2016, Thomas Cook Group plc's three major shareholders were Invesco (19%), Standard Life Investments (10%), and the business magnate and investor Guo Guangchang (7.03%). The remainder of the stock floated freely.[88]

OperationsEdit

Thomas Cook Group employed approximately 21,000 staff worldwide, with 9,000 in the United Kingdom.[89]

UK retail armEdit

Thomas Cook Retail Limited was the UK travel agent, and successor to Thomas Cook & Son stores.[90] It was a subsidiary of the Thomas Cook Group, who operated a total of 555 travel stores all over the United Kingdom. The agents primarily sold package holidays under the in-house British tour operator Thomas Cook Tour Operations, and flight-only bookings with Thomas Cook Airlines. On 23 September 2019, the business entered compulsory liquidation, like all other UK entities in the group.[62]

Tour operatorsEdit

Tour operator Country Logo Joined the group Fate
Thomas Cook Tour Operations United Kingdom Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation; closed down on 23 September 2019.[91][92]
Thomas Cook Germany Germany Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation; closed down on 1 December 2019.[75][93]
Thomas Cook France France Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation.[94]
Thomas Cook Netherlands Netherlands Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation.[95]
Thomas Cook Belgium Belgium Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation.[95]
Thomas Cook China China Sunny Heart 2016-2019 Majority owned by Fosun Tourism.[96]
Thomas Cook India India Globe 1881-2012 Sold to Fairfax Financial.[12][97]
Airtours United Kingdom Independent logo 2007-2019 (former MyTravel Group subsidiary) Compulsory liquidation; closed down on 23 September 2019.[note 1]
Ving Norway
Sweden
Sunny Heart 2007-2019 (former MyTravel Group subsidiary) Acquired by an investment consortium.[3]
Tjäreborg Finland Sunny Heart 2007-2019 (former MyTravel Group subsidiary) Acquired by an investment consortium.[3]
Spies Denmark Sunny Heart 2007-2019 (former MyTravel Group subsidiary) Acquired by an investment consortium.[3]
Neckermann Poland
Hungary
Czech Republic
Sunny Heart 2001-2019 for Poland and Hungary
2007-2019 for Czech Republic
Compulsory liquidation.[98]
Neckermann Reisen Austria
Switzerland
Sunny Heart 2001-2019 Compulsory liquidation; acquired by Anex Tours.[79][99]
Intourist Russia Independent and Sunny Heart 2011-2019 Acquired by Anex Tours.[76]
Sunquest Vacations Canada Independent 1995-2013 Sold to Transat A.T..[100]
Öger Tours Germany Independent 2010-2019 Acquired by Anex Tours.[77][78]

In Destination ManagementEdit

Thomas Cook In Destination Management Limited[101] was an overseas management company, operating on behalf of its British sister tour operator and airline. The business was in charge of managing bus transfers to hotels and providing hotel 'reps' for Thomas Cook customers.[102] It ceased operations on 23 September 2019 after Thomas Cook Group and its UK entities entered compulsory liquidation.[62]

Hotel chainsEdit

The majority of hotels were located in Europe, primarily in countries within the European Union.[103][104] Brands included Casa Cook, Sentido, Sunprime, Cook's Club, Aldiana, Sunwing, SunConnect, and Smartline.[103][104][105]

AviationEdit

The Thomas Cook Group's airline division operated as one operating segment, the Thomas Cook Group Airlines (TCGA).[106]

AirlinesEdit

Airline Country Image Joined Description Fate
Thomas Cook Airlines UK United Kingdom   2003-2019 Thomas Cook Airlines was established in 2003 after being renamed from the former JMC Air. As of 2016, the airline operated an 'all Airbus fleet' operating the Airbus A321 and Airbus A330. Compulsory liquidation; closed down on 23 September 2019.[91]
Condor Flugdienst Germany   2001-present Condor Flugdienst is a German carrier who were established in 1956 being previously a fully owned subsidiary of Lufthansa operates a mixed fleet of both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Continues to operate; under offer to be acquired by LOT Polish Airlines, subject to approval by antitrust authorities.[83][107] LOT Polish Airlines withdrew its offer on 13 April 2020.[84]
Thomas Cook Aviation Germany   2017-2020 In January 2017 AB Aviation GmbH received the approval for the Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) after being acquired by Thomas Cook Group. The company was renamed to Thomas Cook Aviation. Filed for bankruptcy on 2 April 2020.[86][107]
Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics Spain   2017-2019 Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics were established in 2017 after the acquisition of Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium to Lufthansa. The airline operated 6 Airbus A320-200 aircraft and operated in the United Kingdom and Germany. All aircraft transferred to Condor; closed down on 26 December 2019.[82][108]
Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia Norway
Denmark
Sweden
  2007-2019 Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia was a Scandinavian airline that operated flights from Denmark, Norway and Sweden to worldwide destinations. The airline operated the Airbus A321-200, Airbus A330-200 and Airbus A330-300. Acquired by an investment consortium and rebranded as Sunclass Airlines on 30 October 2019.[3]
Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium Belgium   2002-2017 Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium was a Belgian leisure airline owned by the Thomas Cook Group. It operated scheduled flights to destinations throughout Europe and Africa from its base at Brussels Airport. Ceased operations when it was sold to Lufthansa AG in 2017.[109]
Thomas Cook Airlines Canada Canada   2010-2013 Thomas Cook Airlines Canada was a Canadian charter division of the Thomas Cook Group based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It served destinations to the Caribbean, Mexico and to North America. Ceased operations when Thomas Cook Group sold Sunquest Vacations in March 2013.[110]

FleetEdit

The Thomas Cook Group Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft before its collapse:[111]

Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
P E Total
Airbus A320-200 16 180 180 Operated by Condor and Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics
Airbus A321-200 57 1 220 220 Operated by Thomas Cook Airlines UK and Scandinavia, Condor and Thomas Cook Aviation
Airbus A330-200 9 49 273 322 Operated by Thomas Cook Airlines UK and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia
Airbus A330-300 3 408 408 Operated by Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia
Boeing 757-300 15 275 275 Operated by Condor
Boeing 767-300 16 1 53 217 270 Operated by Condor
Total 117 2

SponsorshipEdit

Thomas Cook was a main sponsor of Manchester City and Peterborough United football clubs. On 22 May 2009, Manchester City announced that its six-year partnership with Thomas Cook would conclude at the end of the 2008–09 Premier League season.[112] Thomas Cook was a sponsor of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. As one of the UK's biggest and most popular providers of package holidays, Thomas Cook was appointed to provide "affordable and accessible" holidays and accommodation throughout the games.[113]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Airtours were a brand of Thomas Cook Retail Limited who are now insolvent. 'TCRL' operated the Thomas Cook UK website and the Airtours UK website.

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