Thomas Cook chief quits as profits plunge

THOMAS Cook yesterday announced that chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa was quitting the company after a disastrous year punctuated by three profit warnings.

The tour operator has been struggling against a backdrop of political unrest in holiday destinations in North Africa and the Middle East and a tough UK market.

Industry insiders said that Fontenla-Novoa was told that his position was untenable after a profit warning on 12 July, which caused the company’s shares to tank.

An emergency board meeting was called in which the Spanish chief executive agreed that his resignation was needed to get the City back on side and shore up the share price.

Other question marks had been raised over the company’s acquisition of the Co-operative’s travel business at a time when the holiday industry is struggling.

He will receive a pay-off of at least £2m and has 930,000 shares. Fontenla-Novoa, who had been chief for seven years, will be replaced in the interim by his deputy Sam Weihagen.

Steve Endacott, chief executive of rival tour operator On Holiday Group, said: “The industry is struggling as costs go up and people have less money. Manny’s departure was not a surprise in the City.”

• Holidays 4U, the UK tour operator, collapsed yesterday, leaving tens of thousands of British holidaymakers stranded abroad.