The share price of Peterborough-based Thomas Cook plunged by 20 per cent today (26 November) after the shock decision by chief executive Harriet Green to step down.
Ms Green joined the Bretton-based travel giant just two years ago and has been responsible for overseeing a transformation in the company’s fortunes.
News of her resignation was made in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange as the company released its annual results showing profits before interest and tax have risen by 44 per cent to £323 million.
However, once disposals, various one-off items and foreign exchange movements are taken into account the firm has made a pre-tax loss of £114 million - compared to a £163 million loss last year.
Ms Green’s decision sent the company share price falling by more than 25 per cent to 104.60 pence per share.
She will be replaced by chief operating officer, Peter Fankhauser, who takes over with immediate effect.
Ms Green joined the company two years ago when its share price was just 14 pence and it had a market capitalisation of £148 million.
Her remit was to transform the company, placing it on a sound financial footing with a solid operational team able to compete in the consumer travel market.
She said: “The transformation of Thomas Cook into a company with a market capitalisation of just under £2 billion and a share price of over 130 pence is one I have been proud to lead.
“I always said that I would move on to another company with fresh challenges once my work was complete. That time is now.
“I wish all of the team at this re-energised company continued success, as they move to the next phase of the company’s development.”
Mr Fankhauser has held a number of senior roles over the last 13 years at Thomas Cook.
In recognition of his success in turning around the UK business as chief executive - UK & Continental Europe, he was promoted to chief operating officer in November 2013.
He has more than 20 years of experience in the travel market.
Before joining Thomas Cook he was responsible for managing and growing the European division and overseas business of Kuoni.
He said: “I feel very honoured to be leading this business which means so much, to so many people. I am determined to work with all our great colleagues worldwide to build on Harriet’s achievements, continuing to deliver great holidays for consumers and good returns for investors.”
Frank Meysman, chairman of Thomas Cook, said: “Harriet has had a highly positive impact on this company.
“We emerge from her transformation stronger, with a clear strategy, world-class leadership team, updated brand, and a renewed focus on the customer.
“The succession plan she devised will now take effect and the new chief executive, Peter, will drive the company forward as we focus on winning the commercial battle against other operators.
He added: “Peter is one of the most accomplished and experienced executives in the travel industry and has played a critical role in our transformation to date.
“We are delighted that someone of Peter’s stature will succeed Harriet and lead the next phase of our transformation.”
Thomas Cook is Britain’s oldest travel company tracing its orgins to 1841.
But over the last 10 years it has enjoyed mixed fortunes.
2005: It announces its greatest ever profits of £50 million over the financial year.
2006: It announces record profits of £83.3 million and is also listed as one of the Sunday Times Top 20 Best Big Companies to work for.
2007: In December Thomas Cook becomes listed on the London Stock Exchange for the first time.
2011: Three profit warnings.
2011: November: An emergency loan of £200 million is needed to keep the firm afloat.
2012: Harriet Green takes over after telling the chairman, the firm “needs her”.