Wednesday 9 October 2019 10:24 am

Hays Travel to buy 555 Thomas Cook stores, providing lifeline for 2,500 former workers

Thousands of former Thomas Cook employees could be in for a reprieve, after the collapsed travel giant’s retail estate has been sold to Hays Travel.

The agreement will see the Sunderland-based independent travel agent pick up 555 former Thomas Cook stores around the UK. The news offers a lifeline for its 2,500 former retail employees.

Thomas Cook’s entire retail network will re-open immediately, Hays said, and 100 jobs will be created at the buyer’s Sunderland headquarters.

Read more: Thomas Cook collapse: Regulators and business groups clamour for answers

Following the appointment of the Official Receiver last month, Hays Travel has already taken on board 421 former Thomas Cook staff, and has further offers outstanding to former employees.

The vast majority of the former store workers will have the opportunity for fresh employment, after the Thomas Cook’s dramatic collapse left them out of a job.

In a joint statement, John and Irene Hays, managing director and chair of Hays Travel, said: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand employing talented people. We look forward to working with many of them.”

John Hays added: “Our staff were devastated to hear about Thomas Cook and we all immediately felt we wanted to help.”

Hays owns 190 shops around the UK already, and hopes the 555 former Thomas Cook branches will compliment its existing business. It said giving jobs to the 2,500 former Thomas Cook workers would double its workforce.

It was one of the companies that immediately responded to the Civil Aviation Authority’s request to support thousands of customers on holiday or with holidays booked when Thomas Cook went under.

City A.M. understands more information about the commercial arrangements will emerge throughout the day.

Read more: Thomas Cook goes bust: How did it end up like this?

David Chapman, the government’s Official Receiver, said: “I am pleased to announce we have reached an agreement with Hays Travel to acquire Thomas Cook’s entire UK retail estate, comprising 555 stores across the country.

“This represents an important step in the liquidation process, as we seek to realise the company’s assets.”

KPMG partner Jim Tucker, who was working on the sale, described it as “an extremely positive outcome”.

“It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees, and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street.”

“We are pleased to have achieved this in a short time frame and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties.”

Thomas COok
Thomas Cook collapsed with a £1.5bn debt pile in September (Getty)

Thomas Cook collapse: The fallout

The collapse of the 178-year-old holiday giant sent shockwaves through the retail and travel industry, and most of the firm’s 9,000 UK workers were made redundant.

It also left about 150,000 Brits stranded abroad, prompting the biggest peacetime repatriation of UK citizens in history by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

That operation concluded on Monday.

Read more: Thomas Cook in stand-off with pension scheme trustees over £900m rescue deal

Watchdogs and MPs alike have launched investigations into how the company was allowed to go bust and leave so many people high and dry.

Last week, it emerged Thomas Cook had paid more than £20m to over 30 advisers in its final days as it failed to secure a rescue deal.

Business secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Thomas Cook’s collapse has been a hugely distressing time for thousands who have lost their jobs and those had their holidays so badly affected.

“I welcome the news that Hays Travel will be purchasing Thomas Cook’s real estate, and hope this will provide significant re-employment opportunities for former Thomas Cook employees, alongside the advice and support we will continue to provide to help people find a new job as quickly as possible”.