There is only one vote that mattered in Expedia's abbreviated CEO search — Barry Diller's. And he wholeheartedly wanted Okerstrom for the job. No need to mess around with an interim title or to conduct the dog and pony show of a CEO search. It was a done deal. Now Okerstrom has to step up to the challenge.
Expedia Inc. appointed Mark Okerstrom, its CFO since September 2011, as President and CEO on a permanent basis to replace Dara Khosrowshahi, who left to become the boss of Uber.
Okerstrom was seemingly the heir apparent but it’s a bit of a surprise that the Expedia board didn’t select an interim CEO and conduct a search for internal and external candidates.
But Expedia had a succession plan and the board felt that there was no need for a search because the pick was a relative no-brainer. Barry Diller, Expedia’s chairman and senior executive, has voting control of the company.
Diller and the board didn’t consider any candidates other than Okerstrom, Diller said in the appointment announcement.
“We all wish Dara Khosrowshahi the best good fortune as Uber’s CEO. I think we are both proud that he leaves behind such a talented organization. Our leadership team, over 12 strong, is as substantial a group of executives as I’ve ever worked with. Prior to Dara leaving, Mark Okerstrom was his principal partner in operating the company — and therefore this transition is as natural as water flowing down a snow-packed mountain. There was no other candidate that the Board considered. Under Mark’s leadership, surrounded by his excellent and tenured executive team, I’m confident we’ll continue to grow and prosper.”
The dramatic turn of events began to unfold Sunday night when The New York Times reported that Uber had offered Khosrowshahi its CEO job.
In selecting Okerstrom for the Expedia CEO slot, Expedia can emphasize continuity to investors, and the company gets a chief executive who thoroughly knows the ins and outs of the company’s strategy, from HomeAway integration issues to hotel negotiations, and the intricacies of its websites’ sort order.
Okerstrom has been involved in each integral decision that company has made in recent years, including everything from strategy to the acquisitions of Trivago and HomeAway.
He hasn’t been a CEO before, but the thinking goes that he has been a key decision-maker at the company for several years, and has a strong bench of company leaders to call upon who run its various business units, ranging from John Kim at HomeAway to Johan Svanstrom at Hotels.com.
In making the announcement — Skift learned of the decision 20 minutes before the press release went out from other sources — Expedia said Okerstrom will also join the Expedia board alongside Khosrowshahi, who will retain his Expedia director’s post, as well.
Typifying Okerstrom’s familiarity with all things Expedia, he spoke at a Goldman Sachs investor conference in February and addressed Expedia’s warm and cold relationship with Google, the company’s push into vacation rentals, and Airbnb’s impact.
He’s also someone who Expedia chairman, senior executive and controlling shareholder Barry Diller is familiar working with.
Okerstrom has worked his way up the ranks since he joined Expedia in October 2006 as vice president of corporate development. He has served as CFO since September 2011. In addition to balancing Expedia’s checkbook, Okerstrom is responsible for mergers and acquisitions, and the company’s global strategy.
The six-year Expedia C-suite executive takes the reins of a company that has had some struggles integrating acquisitions over the last year and a half, and must regain its momentum in the face of the much-larger Priceline Group that’s continuing to do its thing and grow.
Okerstrom’s Note to Expedia Employees
Shortly after announcing the change in leadership, Okerstrom sent an email to Expedia employees. The email reads:
Well well! These have been an eventful few days haven’t they!
By now I am sure that you have seen the news that I have accepted the role of President & CEO of Expedia, Inc. Having worked side by side with Dara for the past (nearly) 11 years, I know better than most the size of his shoes – big! He is a strong, visionary leader, has been a great mentor to many of us (me included), and I count him as a real friend. Somehow saying the standard “Please join me in thanking Dara and wishing him the best of luck in his new role” doesn’t quite cut it, does it?! So let me just express (on behalf of all of us), a heartfelt thanks to Mr. Dara Khosrowshahi for the tremendous legacy he has left us all. Uber is a very fortunate company.
Looking forward, let me start by saying that I am honored and humbled to have been entrusted to lead this great company of ours through its next phase of growth. We find ourselves in the enviable but equally daunting spot of being in a stronger position than perhaps we have ever been. Yet, we face competitive pressures as fierce as ever and see so much opportunity for improvement and growth ahead. Go Global, Go Faster, and Simply Do Better for Customers, Partners, Employees and Shareholders. So much more left for us to do together!
So what can you expect from me and for Expedia, Inc., going forward? In short, I would assume largely a continuation of the strategic course we have been on. I have been intimately involved in shaping the strategic and financial direction of this company for the past 11 years, so I actually do not have a long list of “Things to do completely differently when Dara leaves” burning a hole in my pocket. What I do have is a passion for listening, for learning, and for organizational and self-improvement. I have a deep curiosity for understanding how we can continue to be a better tech company and most importantly how we can more aggressively innovate to provide even more valuable products and services to our customers and partners alike. So in the near term…you will probably see me asking a lot of questions, listening and no doubt making a few mistakes here and there (apologies in advance J).
I am fortunate to be surrounded by the strongest Travel Leadership Team I have ever seen at Expedia, Inc., and objectively one of the strongest and deepest executive teams out there. The entire TLT, without exception is an extraordinarily committed bunch, who are all in this for the long haul. That said, though we are proud of how far we have come over the past decade plus, in true Expedia fashion, I can assure you that we are all hungry to be better….to truly reach the moving goal posts of realizing our full potential as a company. I believe in this company and I believe in you – I always have. And I know from watching Expedians in action over the years that, together, when we chart a clear course, stay focused and execute – we are a force to be reckoned with in the world of technology and travel.
I look forward to speaking with you all soon and I am super excited for this next chapter. Thank you in advance for continuing to make Expedia such a special place.
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Photo credit: Mark Okerstrom was named as President and CEO of Expedia Inc. on August 30, 2017. Expedia