Sabre Corporation announced yesterday evening that its CEO and president Tom Klein will resign from its Board of Directors on December 31, 2016 and will play a role as acting CEO as the company seeks a replacement in the coming months.
“By making this announcement now, the Board of Directors will have ample time to identify a successor as we work through a smooth transition to keep the company’s growth plans and our customer deliverables on course,” Klein said in a statement. “Then I will be able to turn my personal attention to new opportunities knowing that I am leaving Sabre on firm ground, with a great management team and a bright future as a global technology leader.”
Klein has been with Sabre for 22 years, starting first when the global distribution system was still operated by American Airlines.
Larry Kellner, chairman, Sabre Board of Directors, said in a statement: “Under his leadership and vision, Sabre is clearly positioned as an innovative technology company and our business has been reinvented to ensure our solutions meet the changing needs of the very dynamic travel industry. During this transition period it will be business as usual for Sabre’s customers, employees, and suppliers as the Board works to identify a successor.”
Sabre’s 2015 earnings exceeded investors’ expectations, but in May Klein bemoaned the current state of business travel and its adverse effects on Sabre. “The biggest issue in North America,” said Klein, “is this slow to no growth in corporate travel.”
Sabre is also a leading player in the direct booking battle that has airlines, hotels, online travel agencies (OTAs), and global distribution systems (GDSs) redrawing lines as each one seeks a faster path to the consumer and more flexibility to sell ancillary products like seat upgrades, baggage, or better rooms. On the airline front, last summer Lufthansa added a fee for agents booking its products through GDSs including Sabre. Sabre has since battled to get access to airline fees in order to display them in its system. With hotels, GDSs have seen some success getting access to direct booking rates that hotels have been keeping from OTAs, and that OTAs would like to sell.
Sabre played a pivotal role in the development of online travel, first as part of American Airlines’ ambitious plans to shape a new generation of booking by travel agents, then as a sometimes rival to new brands like Expedia and Orbitz that sought to go direct to consumers.