Priceline.com is shaking things up at the top as the Priceline Group subsidiary announced that CEO Paul Hennessy will depart to become CEO of used-car seller Vroom, and current COO and CMO Brett Keller will become interim CEO.
The shift at CEO for Connecticut-based Priceline.com comes at an awkward time for the Priceline Group because Hennessy, who’d been on the job since 2015, was leading a turnaround plan for Priceline.com, which had launched a new and substantial marketing campaign early this year.
In addition, the Priceline Group has its own CEO search under way following the resignation in late April of Group CEO Darren Huston. He left the company following a revelation that he the married executive was involved in a sexual relationship with an employee. Priceline Group chairman Jeffery Boyd is currently serving as interim CEO of the Group, which includes Amsterdam-based Booking.com as its largest brand, while a search for a new Group CEO is under way.
Hennessy’s resignation does not appear to be related to the Group’s CEO search. The Group is believed to be looking for a CEO who has operated and scaled a global ecommerce company. Before becoming Priceline.com CEO in April 2015, Hennessy had been CMO of Booking.com so he doesn’t appear to have had the operational experience that the Group is looking for in a CEO candidate.
While a couple of internal candidates, such as Glenn Fogel, head of worldwide strategy and planning, and Kayak co-founder Steve Hafner might be under consideration, the company is believed to be actively looking at external candidates, as well.
Behind the Change
Did something go wrong with Hennessy’s turnaround plan to trigger Hennessy’s exit for a position outside the travel industry? There’s nothing in today’s announcement to indicate that although such speculation isn’t necessarily out of line.
During the Priceline Group’s first quarter of 2016 earnings call on May 4, Boyd said “Priceline.com’s results continue to be impacted by pressure on its opaque business due to greater marketplace competition in hotel discounting. Substantial investment in technology and people are under way to drive improvements to product, user interface and experiment velocity, and a new brand campaign launched in the first quarter aims at a more broadly-appealing message and brand promise.”
Priceline.com’s new interim CEO Brett Keller has been with the company for 17 years. He has served as CMO for the past 14 years and took on the additional COO role in December 2015.
There is no indication that Priceline.com will be doing its own CEO search despite Keller’s interim title.
“We could not be more fortunate to have Brett, a 17-year veteran of the business, step into the role of interim CEO of priceline.com,” said Boyd. “I am confident that his expertise in all facets of the priceline.com business and his passion for the brand will ensure a seamless transition upon Paul’s departure, and I look forward to working with Brett as we continue to pursue this iconic brand’s evolution in a changing marketplace. We thank Paul for his dedication the Group over the last 16 years.”
Keller said: “Priceline.com has a long history of bringing its loyal customer base the absolute best deals in travel. I have been a part of this journey alongside the priceline.com leadership team and Jeff Boyd for many years and look forward to continued product innovation, further adapting and innovating around our passion to deliver customers the best deals across all digital platforms.”