Four of the five executives who left sister brands Travel 2 and Gold Medal to join rival operator If Only were prevented from starting their new roles this month due to legal action by their former employer.
Dnata Travel, the parent company of Travel 2 and Gold Medal, confirmed in a statement this week that “legal proceedings were ongoing” but declined to comment further on details of the case.
Travel Weekly understands dnata instigated legal action against If Only and the five individual executives following their resignations on June 5.
They are former Travel 2 and Gold Medal managing director Andy Freeth, sales director Gordon McCreadie, product and commercial director Matt Appleby, head of sales Tracy Hirsz and Travel 2 business manager David Irving.
Four of the recruits were due to start work with If Only earlier this month, with only Freeth not due to start in his new role as chief executive of the trade‑only luxury operator until December 1.
But Travel Weekly understands all five may now be restricted from starting at If Only, or contacting any agent partners or attending any industry events, until the spring.
Agents expecting to see the team at If Only this month alerted Travel Weekly to the fact they had not started.
At the time of the announcement in June that all five were quitting dnata, If Only said it was planning to increase its sales threefold with the new team on board. If Only, like Travel 2, is based in Glasgow.
If Only embarked on a series of agent dinners last week in Ipswich and Edinburgh to promote its 2018 brochures. It was due to hold 14 similar events elsewhere around the UK this month.
In June, If Only founder and managing director Brendan Maguire, who will become chairman once Freeth starts, said his new appointments were being made to support an ambitious expansion plan. For the year to March 2017, If Only’s turnover was £25 million. It has an Atol licence for just under 8,000 passengers.
Maguire wants to expand the brand from its Asian, Arabian and Australasian strongholds to destinations such as North and South America and the Caribbean. He is also looking to grow cruise and private touring business.
He said at the time: “We have increased our turnover every year and now plan ambitious expansion into new destinations and sectors, and so before long, we will be one of the big boys ourselves.”
If Only’s six on-the-road business development managers were due to report into incoming sales and marketing director McCreadie. Appleby was due to become product and commercial director, Hirsz was to assume the new role of business development director and Irving was to become head of specialist businesses.
Travel Weekly was unable to reach McGuire, Freeth, McCreadie or Hirsz for a comment.
At a glance – timeline of events
February 2014: Dnata Travel announces the acquisition of Gold Medal from Thomas Cook for £45 million
September 2014: Dnata Travel acquires Travel 2 parent Stella Travel Services for an undisclosed sum
July 2015: Andy Freeth is installed as managing director for both Gold Medal and Travel 2
June 2017: Andy Freeth, Gordon McCreadie, Matt Appleby, Tracy Hirsz and David Irving quit Travel 2 and Gold Medal for If Only
September 2017: Dnata Travel unveils management changes in its UK business including former Gold Medal chief executive Steve Barrass as president, new ventures (Europe)
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