No pain, no gain, right? Expedia's Vrbo unit, which is almost an afterthought when it comes to discussions about Airbnb, Booking.com, and Google, has been undergoing a difficult transition. In itself, changing the leadership isn't the answer, but along with other changes, perhaps it won't hurt.
John Kim, who took over the reins of Expedia Group’s now-struggling vacation rental unit Vrbo in 2016, has been replaced in that leadership role by Jeff Hurst.
In another move in Expedia Group’s ongoing reorganization, which has been under way for months, Cyril Ranque, previously president of Lodging Partner Services, became president of the company’s Travel Partners Group.
Expedia hasn’t formally announced these changes but updated its leadership pages online to reflect them. An announcement is likely forthcoming.
Kim’s transition might be positioned as a lateral move as he becomes president of an important unit, Platform & Marketplaces. He will lead efforts in artificial intelligence, user experience, and marketplaces, but Vrbo, acquired from HomeAway in 2015, has encountered competitive headwinds under his reign.
Ranque, who previously was responsible for lodging partners, still has that responsibility but also becomes the key liaison for airline, cruise, car, activities, and destination partners.
Jeff Hurst, who takes the top spot at Vrbo, previously called HomeAway, was promoted from chief commercial officer of the unit.
In the third quarter, Vrbo, which had to deal with higher marketing costs, a difficult rebranding, and Google’s move to establish its own vacation rental product, saw its net income growth decelerate to 3 percent to $215 million, compared with a 66 percent jump a year earlier.
Vrbo’s revenue growth of 14 percent to $467 million also represented a substantial slowdown compared with a year earlier.
Kim led Vrbo’s transition from a largely subscription business toward a digital business where many management companies and hosts pay commissions per booking instead of an annual fee.
Speaking with financial analysts a week ago during Expedia Group’s third-quarter earnings announcement, CEO Mark Okerstrom cited “softer than expected” profit at Vrbo. Citing additional costs related to a new payment processing system at Vrbo, Okerstrom said “gross bookings and room night trends at Vrbo also remained muted,” and the company lowered Vrbo’s profit expectations for the year.
Okerstrom also discussed Expedia Group’s “recent realignment,” which encourages closer collaboration between partner- and customer-facing teams, adding that it positions the company for long-term growth. In the short-term, however, such as in the third quarter, the reorganization took its toll.
“Over the past several months, we’ve been in the process of realigning teams across the organization,” Okerstrom said. “And over time, we expect these changes to improve our operational efficiency and effectiveness. That said, with many people focused on that effort, it did likely impact our ability to anticipate and react to the dynamics we saw during the quarter.”
In other information about the Expedia reorganization, Expedia Media Solutions now falls into Cyril Ranque’s responsibilities as president of Expedia’s Travel Partners Group.
Tucker Moodey, who previously was president of Expedia’s eCommerce Platform, became president of Expedia’s Portfolio & Retail Global Functions. As such, Moodey not only has responsibility for brands Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Wotif, for example, but he also takes on leadership for Hotwire and CarRentals.com.
Hotwire President Neha Parikh left Expedia Group November 8.
Hotels.com and Vrbo remain independent retail brands and are not part of Expedia’s Portfolio & Retail Global Functions unit.
In another move, Sarah Gavin became vice president of Expedia Group Global Communications and Corporate Brand. Gavin previously headed public relations for brand Expedia.
Of the reorganization, Gavin said putting various product teams together makes sense to unleash the power of Expedia’s platform.
“The AI (artificial intelligence) teams were in pockets all over the company,” Gavin said. “If we put them all together, we can do amazing things.”
UPDATE: This story was updated. Information about Expedia Media Solutions now falling into Cyril Ranque’s responsibilities as president of Expedia’s Travel Partners Group was added.
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Photo credit: Pictured is a Maui vacation rental. Jeff Hurst became the general manager of Expedia Group's Vrbo unit. VRBO / VRBO