'I wasn't chosen to manage decline', says new Cook boss

'I wasn't chosen to manage decline', says new Cook boss

The new chief executive of Thomas Cook  had denied she has been brought in to “manage decline” of the ailing travel giant.

She pointed to her expertise in globalisation of business and e-commerce as two of the key elements she will bring from her current role as the boss of electronics supplier Premier Farnell.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The Bottom Line, Harriet Green admitted she did not know the travel industry, but said she was drawn to “challenging” sectors.

Asked by host Evan Davis why she had taken the job, she said: “There are many exciting reasons to take on a challenge like this. I’m always interested in sectors and environments that are challenging.

“I think a company that has such a powerful brand and has had a strong heritage is also exciting, and with the added energy of pace of change, there is a lot to do in a short period of time.”

Questioned by Davis on whether she had been brought in to manage decline or wind down the company, she said:

“If it was (the case) I don’t think anyone would have picked me and I don’t see it as that at all. The role is to return the Thomas Cook Group to its extraordinary position, with this brand which is loved and respected.”

Green said her key focus would be on identifying the needs of customers, ensuring the brand worked across key markets, incorporating web-based sales and “reinvigorating our people”.

She said: “The transformation that we did at Premier Farnell was about internationalising the business from just being in the mature markets, and absolutely taking a business that didn’t service its customers via the web to a large percentage via the web.

“From a shareholder return, from a profitability, from a growth perspective (the business) has really developed under a new strategy so there are many things that are similar (with Cook).”

Questioned by Davis about the “shareholder spring”, Green suggested that the recent rejection of the Premier Farnell remuneration package by shareholders holding 32% of stock was more about transparent business than executive salaries.

“My own reward last year went down close to 70% even though the profits were very similar to the previous record year,” she said. “What was being voted on was not that, it was around how you manage, how you create new programmes in an environment where there is limited visibility.”

She added: “I think it’s great that shareholders want to have greater involvement but they need to have the resources and skills and the expertise not to spend 12 hours before the vote ticking a box but engaging in a meaningful dialogue.”

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