Simon English: Ailing Thomas Cook goes green as it decides not to play the Long game

Simon English
Thursday 24 May 2012 22:14
Comments

Outlook Peter Long probably doesn't openly plot for the demise of Thomas Cook. On the other hand, he may feel that his intervention is hardly proving necessary. The boss of Tui Travel, Cook's far-better-placed arch-rival, is a grizzled industry veteran who has seen it all before twice.

Recession? Re-schmession. People always want a holiday, he reasons, you just have to get the pitch right...

Which makes the appointment of industry newbie Harriet Green to be the next chief executive of Thomas Cook all the more intriguing.

Almost as if the board were saying that there's plainly no point going head to head with Mr Long, might as well try something completely different...

Ms Green is the anti-Long. She has a Cameron-like devotion to downtime, to "life balance". (You what? It is possible to hear Mr Long barracking.)

A medieval history graduate, Ms Green insists on doing yoga for one hour a day.

She says: "Whatever is your challenge in yoga is your challenge in life." (You what?)

The details of Ms Green's pay and incentive package will be of considerable interest, a sign of whether the supposed backlash from investors against outrageous rewards is meaningful or a passing fad.

Her predecessor Manny Fontenla-Novoa was pretty much a poster boy for how it shouldn't be done (he got many millions for driving the business off a cliff).

Cook's chairman insists he will only pay well if Ms Green does well, though the rest of us won't be told how stretching her targets are until the annual report appears next December.

Hopefully long-suffering investors will be expecting guidance on Ms Green's deal well before then, and indicating willingness to make a fuss if they don't like what they hear.

Thomas Cook's demise would plainly be awful news, not least for the 30,000 it employs, so even Mr Long might wish his new rival well.

Ms Green's track record is mostly good and she's regarded as an internet-savvy operator.

The thing is, it's not as though Tui hasn't already twigged that Twitter can be helpful. She'll need more than that. And some luck.

s.english@independent.co.uk

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