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Skyscanner Appoints New Chairman With Expertise in Mobile

Dec 02, 2013 5:00 am

Skift Take

Skyscanner got a little more diverse, selecting a woman as chairman, and importantly picked someone who might be able to assist its transition into mobile.

— Dennis Schaal

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Skyscanner, the British flight comparison service recently valued at £500m ($821.5 million), has hired a new chairman as it accelerates expansion on the path to a flotation.

The Edinburgh-based business will this week announce that mobile technology veteran Margaret Rice-Jones has taken the role, after a search for a chairman with extensive experience of both international expansion and the types of technology Skyscanner uses. Her appointment follows a major cash injection for Skyscanner from Sequoia Capital, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “We’re primarily a technology company and she’s an engineer by background, so it is a good fit. Her mobile experience was really important to us.” Along with Facebook, Google and the rest of the web, Skyscanner is grappling with the rapid shift away from PCs towards smartphones and tablets.

Ms Rice-Jones has more than 20 years’ experience in the mobile industry, including stints at Motorola and Psion. Her last executive role was chief executive at Aircom, a provider of technology services to mobile networks.

The Sequoia investment, which in October valued Skyscanner at nearly £500m, will help to fund development of its mobile apps, as well as plans to provide car rental and hotel comparison services to match its flight offering. The company is also building its international infrastructure .

Skyscanner was founded in 2003 and has been profitable for four years, but Mr Williams said it had not begun planning a flotation yet. “We need to be much bigger. We haven’t started IPO planning yet,” he said.

“We were able to do the Sequoia deal because the existing shareholders were not looking for liquidity.”

The company expects to roughly double its profits this year, from £12m ($19.72 million) in 2012.

Ms Rice-Jones will replace Irish businessman Ray Nolan.

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