Thomas Cook confirmed this morning the shock departure of group chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa “with immediate effect”.
His exit follows a series of profit warnings at the company which saw its share price tumble to 60p from more than 150p in early June. His exit came as the company released its interim management statement saying that the business “remains on track to meet expectations” for the full year.
Sam Weihagen, currently deputy to the group CEO, will move into Fontenla-Novoa's role on an interim basis. A search process is underway to identify a permanent successor and an announcement will be made in due course, Thomas Cook said.
Weihagen made an appeal for calm after the surprise announcement, saying, "With just seven weeks to go in this financial year, it is important that we stay focused on making the most of the next few weeks."
A spokesperson for Co-operative Travel said its retail merger with Thomas Cook, which could go ahead before the end of the year pending final approval from the Competition Commission, would be unaffected by Fontenla-Novoa's departure.
'A remarkable journey'
Fontela-Novoa has been group CEO since July 2007. He joined the company in 1996 with the acquisition of Sunworld, which was then the UK’s fourth largest tour operator. He was a founding director of Sunworld and has more than 30 years’ experience in the travel industry.
In a letter to Thomas Cook staff and partners, Fontenla-Novoa wrote: "As one united team, under the banner of the best known name in travel, we’ve created one of the world’s leading travel organisations.
"From a business perspective, I take particular pride in having led Thomas Cook through the remarkable journey from being a UK centric company to the truly international group that it is today."
Thomas Cook chairman Michael Beckett said: “The board would like to thank Manny for his contribution to the group. He leaves with our very best wishes for the future.
“In Sam Weihagen, we have a highly successful and experienced executive and the Board has every confidence in his ability to lead the group until a new CEO is appointed.
- Download the full announcement from Thomas Cook Group's media centre
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