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Travelzoo CEO Chris Loughlin is stepping down, the company announced, and chairman Holger Bartel has stepped in as global CEO, effective immediately.
Holger Bartel, who was Travelzoo CEO from 2008 to 2010, is the brother of Ralph Bartel, the Travelzoo founder who controls the public company.
Loughlin, who has been Travelzoo CEO since July 2010 and has worked at the company in various capacities since 2001, will leave Travelzoo at the end of the year “at his own request to pursue other opportunities,” Travelzoo stated.
No one is believing that scenario.
Travelzoo is renowned for its travel deals newsletter, which currently has 27 million subscribers (Travelzoo now calls them “members”), and Loughlin led the company’s foray into the local deals market as flash and voucher sales took hold at companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial.
Early on after the shift into local deals and getaways, Travelzoo was briefly an Internet darling but then its stock price tanked.
It would be unfair to blame the dive on Loughlin, however, because the allure of flash sales flamed out and nothing happens at Travelzoo without the approval of founder Ralph Bartel, who was Travelzoo president and CEO for a decade starting in 1998. He is now the company’s chief talent officer.
Over the last couple of years, Travelzoo has been trying to pivot into being a hotel-booking site but has found the shift very slow-going.
Along with the CEO transition to Holger Bartel as global CEO, a new title, Travelzoo announced that Mike Stitt becomes president, North America, effective immediately. Stitt has headed Travelzoo’s entertainment and local categories most recently.
Vivian Hong, becomes president, Asia Pacific, effective January 1, 2016. Hong currently heads Travelzoo’s operations in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and will add Australia, Japan and Southeast Asia to her duties, and be responsible for the unit’s profit and loss statement, with the new title.
In August, Travelzoo reacquired its Asia-Pacific business for $22.6 million. Travelzoo Asia-Pacific had likewise been controlled by Ralph Bartel. Travelzoo six years ago sold Travelzoo Asia-Pacific to an entity controlled by Ralph Bartel for $3.6 million.
Under the terms of Holger Bartel’s new employment and options agreement, which begins on January 1, he will receive 400,000 Travelzoo stock options, which vest quarterly through 2017. Holger Bartel will continue to receive his board fees and his annual salary will be $1.