Thomas Cook will have a new chief executive from July 20. Ian Taylor considers 10 things you may need to know about Harriet Green
1. Electronics background
Harriet Green has spent her career in the electronic components industry. She joins from electronic parts distributor Premier Farnell where she has been chief executive since April 2006. Before that, she was a vice-president of Arrow Electronics and president of Arrow Asia Pacific, having held a variety of posts at the Arrow group since 1994. Prior to that Green was managing director of Macro Group, another components firm.
2. Executive roles
Like many senior executives, Green also has roles at other firms. These are also in electronics. She is a non-executive director at military contractor BAE Systems and a director of Emerson Electric Company in the US.
3. Marketing know-how
Green’s background is not just non-travel, it is non-retail. However, she is experienced in marketing and distribution across multiple markets and in running a public company, which means fulfilling analysts’ and shareholders’ expectations. Premier Farnell has a market value of £626 million – on a par with Thomas Cook’s last July, though Cook’s value is now £190 million. Premier runs transactional websites in 29 languages.
4. ‘Change manager’
Green has a reputation as “a change manager”. She is credited with overseeing “a period of significant strategic change” at Premier Farnell. Analyst Panmure Gorden reported: “She has done a good job in turning Premier Farnell around.” Thomas Cook describes Green as having “extensive experience of driving business transformation programmes”.
5. Online onus
The change Green drove at Premier was moving most of the company’s business online. Thomas Cook hailed Green as “driving industry-leading returns” and “creating a multi-channel operation where the majority of business is transacted through e-commerce”. Premier Farnell reports 55% of its sales via e-commerce, compared with 12% when Green took over. It says: “Green and the management team turned Premier Farnell from a catalogue distributor to a multi‑channel organisation.”
6. Shares downturn
Green’s time at Premier has not all been plain sailing. The group’s share price was 41% down on a year ago this week, a decline triggered by a profit warning last July – a month when Thomas Cook issued a similar warning and saw its share value plunge. Premier failed to hit first-quarter profit expectations and warned second-quarter growth would be less than forecast, blaming the “global economic slowdown”.
7. Semiconductor slump
The new Thomas Cook boss has experience of a tough market. Global semiconductor sales, a key part of Premier’s business, declined 9% in the year to March – close to the year-on-year decline in sales of summer holidays. Analysts described Premier Farnell’s last full-year figures, in March, as “disappointing” and warned of “difficult months ahead”.
8. Outsider attributes
Green’s lack of travel experience is touted as an asset. Cook chairman Frank Meysman says: “She can take a helicopter-like strategic view.” However, Green will be working with a new finance director who is also from outside the industry – Michael Healy, who joins from Kwik-Fit on July 1 – and with Meysman, who joined last October following a career with Proctor & Gamble.
Relaxation is important to Green, who practises yoga daily. She says: “If you can’t do something for yourself for an hour a day, you have become a slave.” Green, 50, has grown-up children, and received an OBE for services to industry two years ago. She has a BA in medieval history and a postgraduate degree in business psychology. Green has worked in the US and Asia and has won two Women in Business awards.
10. Banks’ backing
Green would not be taking over at Thomas Cook without the blessing of the banks which underwrite its debt and are major shareholders. In a short statement, Green pledged to “rebuild shareholder value”.
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