The announcement yesterday by Tui Travel parent company Tui AG of the successor to chief executive Michael Frenzel was no real surprise.
Frenzel is 65 and his retirement was expected. It is in keeping with Tui’s handling of affairs under Frenzel that his departure be well choreographed. No nine-month search for a successor like the rival Thomas Cook group.
But his departure does mark a decisive moment. Frenzel joined the Tui group or Preussag, as it then was, in 1988 and led its transformation from a heavy industrial group focussed on coal and steel production.
Preussag was the former Prussian state coal and steel company, hence its name: ‘Pruess AG’ (Prussia Ltd).
Frenzel saw no future in heavy industry and looked around for a sector to which he could migrate the group, first of all turning into a holding company.
He did not turn miners to tour operating and steelworkers into travel agents, but over little more than four years at the end of the 1990s the industrial giant mutated into the world’s largest integrated travel group.
First Frenzel acquired and assembled a major German tour operation, airline and agency chain. Then he looked overseas, acquiring companies in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.
His biggest rival in German, airline Condor and tour operator Neckmann, followed in his wake, consolidating to form C&N.
Frenzel divested the coal and steel interests as he went, borrowing to make acquisitions and making repayments with sale proceeds.
When Thomas Cook in the UK became available in 1998, he snapped up a controlling stake. C&N reacted by entering talks with Thomson Holidays.
Alerted to the fact Thomson was available, Frenzel bought that company in 2000 and deftly disposed of Thomas Cook to C&N, which subsequently renamed itself under the UK brand.
Preussag became Tui, the holding company of the Tui travel group, when it purchased the Hapag Lloyd shipping company in 2002, a deal which included the Tui name.
Subsequently, Frenzel gave the go-ahead to Tui UK’s takeover of First Choice in 2007 (following the merger of Thomas Cook and MyTravel) and the Tui Travel Group was formed, listed on the London Stock Exchange. Tui AG remained listed in Frankfurt as Preussag had been.
It is hard to think of a comparable transformation in another sector of industry.
Frenzel will remain with Tui for now, retaining the positions of chief executive of Tui AG and chairman of Tui Travel for more than a year. He will surely remain in travel beyond this time as chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, a post he took this year.
His successor Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Joussen will join from Vodafone Germany where, ironically, in effect he has been also since 1988.
Joussen joined German mobile phone company Mannesman in that year and it was acquired by Vodafone in 2000. He worked his way up chief operating officer in 2003 and chief executive in 2005.
Part of the attraction will be that Joussen sat on the executive committee of Vodafone Group, based in the UK.
Frenzel’s successor has thus been secured a year before his departure. In similar vein, at Tui Travel the likely successor to chief executive Peter Long is already in situ.
Meanwhile, Harriet Green took over as chief executive at Thomas Cook on Monday just short of a year since predecessor Manny Fontenla-Novoa was forced out.
It is surely no coincidence that the announcement of Frenzel’s successor came when it did.
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