Former Thomas Cook bosses defended the decisions they made while leading the company at a Westminster inquiry this morning (23 October).
Manny Fontenla-Novoa and Harriet Green answered questions about Cook’s business model at Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee, which is investigating the collapse.
Fontenla-Novoa said he believed acquiring MyTravel in 2007 – blamed for the build up of debt by Peter Fankhauser – was the right decision.
It came before a £237 million acquisition spree and £290 million paid to shareholders in 2008-2010, which led to a 2011 cash crisis.
At the inquiry, committee chair Rachel Reeves highlighted Cook was not a signatory to the Prompt Payment Code, with average payments made after 60 or 70 days.
“Looking back, do I regret things? Of course I regret things,” Fontenla-Novoa said.
“I made mistakes, I have no doubt about that, but I honestly, genuinely believe that the merger with MyTravel was the right decision.”
Reeves cautioned Fontenla-Novoa that “a little bit more humility and introspection about what went on wouldn’t go amiss”.
Green, meanwhile, said she tried to “build a digital business”.
“This was a company whose 1,000 stores did not even have connection at enterprise level internet so in hiring the right people, developing the right data, and putting together a plan enabled us to drive new clients, new customers and the basis of an internet business,” Green said.
She added Cook had grown to generate £2 billion of capitalisation in 28 months under the new strategy, before it was cut short.
She was “sad and frustrated” when she was asked to leave in 2014 after about two years at the helm, she said.