It was a seemingly inconsequential meeting between a self-described young, aggressive sales guy, Shane Whaley of Octopustravel, and a U.S. business development executive keen on European expansion, Glenn Fogel of Priceline.com, at World Travel Mart in London in 2002 that changed the course of travel history.

That encounter ultimately tipped off Fogel to the potential of Priceline acquiring Active Hotels, which Whaley had joined a year later. Priceline acquired the UK’s Active Hotels in September 2004 for $161 million, and in a one-two punch, bought Bookings B.V. of the Netherlands for $133 million in July 2005. Yes, Active Hotels was the pricier deal and the larger company at the time, although Bookings was growing faster.

What follows is The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com, a project that was a couple of years in the making. Skift started speaking with the co-founders and key executives at Active Hotels, Booking.com, Booking Holdings, and Expedia in 2016, continued in 2017, and it all culminates here. The interviews include the reminisces of Gillian Tans, Glenn Fogel, Jeffery Boyd, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Andy Phillipps, among others decision-makers.

The twin deals in Europe, which led to the creation of Booking.com, turned out to be the greatest acquisition in terms of value for the parent company in online travel history. And it was the fifth best deal in Internet history — we have the estimates to prove it.

Read It Now

In their own words, you can read often-never-revealed details about the formation of the companies; how the key players viewed the competition; the talks that led up to the deals; the sometimes-stormy interactions among British-led Active Hotels and Dutch-run Bookings during the integration process; and the significance of the journey and the outcome.

The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com, which includes archival photos and materials, includes scoops about other behind-the-scenes maneuverings, and has relevance to startups and mergers and acquisitions practitioners inside and outside of travel.

This oral history about the creation of the Booking.com juggernaut builds on two previous Skift oral histories, The Definitive Oral History of Online Travel, and the Complete Oral History of Boutique Hotels.

We are holding ourselves back about revealing more anecdotes and recollections, both of the personal and business variety in The Oral History of Travel’s Greatest Acquisition Booking.com, but the best thing for you to do is just settle in and read it.

Send us your feedback, suggestions, bouquets and brickbats about this project, write to us at: history@skift.com