Thomas Cook collected its fair share of brands over the years. Now rivals are picking over what remains of the group.
When an empire falls there are always others around to pick up the pieces. Thomas Cook’s collapse in September offered an opportunity for rival companies to get their hands on assets accumulated over the years.
Thomas Cook Group might be no more, but the brands it collected over its many years in business are finding new homes as travel companies across Europe and further afield jostle for position.
Here’s a rundown of everything acquired so far.
Thomas Cook (brand name)
Even after a reputation-tarnishing financial collapse, the name Thomas Cook still carries some value. China’s Fosun Tourism Group, a shareholder in Thomas Cook and the main protagonist in its failed rescue bid, decided to spend $14.4 million (£11 million) on buying the main brand as well as hotel brands Casa Cook and Cook’s Club.
The outlay is a lot less than Fosun would have had to spend to keep the company afloat and it means that it gets to keep the brands in its Foliday ecosystem.
“Following the acquisition, the group will focus on business expansion, using the newly acquired Thomas Cook brands to create synergies with the existing businesses of the group,” said Qian Jiannong, chairman of Fosun Tourism Group.
But it seems that Fosun won’t have it all its own way. Thomas Cook India, which was owned and operated independently of the wider Thomas Cook Group, announced it was buying the Thomas Cook name in three markets: India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius, for $2 million (£1.5 Million).
The company said the deal would stop “possible new entrants into these markets, using the brand name”. Presumably this means Fosun.
Thomas Cook Northern Europe/Ving now renamed Nordic Leisure Travel Group
This includes country-specific tour operators Ving (Norway and Sweden), Globetrotter (Sweden), Spies (Denmark), and Tjäreborg (Finland) as well as Sunclass Airlines (formerly Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia). The group also includes hotel brands Sunwing Family Resorts and Sunprime Hotels.
Thomas Cook’s Nordic business was always seen as a separate, self-contained entity, having only been acquired in the 2007 through the MyTravel merger. Unlike the other airlines in the group which operated mainly on a scheduled basis, the Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia was predominantly a charter service for tour operator customers.
The other big brand that survived the immediate collapse was German airline Condor. In the aftermath, the company announced it would use a piece of German insolvency law called a protective shield procedure, to separate it from its owner in the UK.
This, together with a European Union-approved German loan worth $420 million (€380 million) has meant that the airline can keep flying over the interim as it looks for a buyer with Lufthansa a potential bidder.
Condor has removed the old Thomas Cook sunny heart logo and replaced it with its own.
Unlike its German counterpart the UK government decided against stepping in to help out Thomas Cook with a loan, meaning its British airline went out of business. On paper the airline was profitable (although it was difficult to deduce how much of this was down to the parent company as this blog points out) and unions were upset that so many employees lost their job as a result.
With the airline going out of business, however, its airport landing slots became available and two of Thomas Cook’s biggest rivals stepped in. Fast-growing Jet2 stepped in and bought slots at Manchester, Birmingham and Stansted airports for an undisclosed amount. Meanwhile, EasyJet, which has recently relaunched its own package holiday offering spent $47 million (£36 million) on a portfolio at London Gatwick and Bristol airports.
In happier news for Thomas Cook employee, family-owned Hays Travel in a blaze of publicity picked up all of Thomas Cook’s 555 UK retail travel agencies. As of November 21, Hays had opened 450 of the stores and offered permanent contracts to 2,330 former Thomas Cook employees.
Elsewhere in Europe buys have been picking over the rest of its retail estate. Thomas Cook had around 2,800 stores and despite the relentless march of online travel there has been no shortage of interest.
In Germany, where the retail travel agency model is still incredibly popular, a number of Thomas Cook’s assets have been picked up. RTK Group, which has around 4,000 travel agencies, bought the brand and system rights to the Holiday Land franchise network. RTK also took over the 50% of the Alpha travel agency group it didn’t already own, from Thomas Cook, before selling it on to new tour operator partner Schauinsland Travel. Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris owns a majority stake in RTK.
Finally, Anex Tourism Group snapped up tour operator Bucher Reisen and Öger Tours. Before Thomas Cook’s collapse, Anex’s founder Neset Kockar amassed a sizeable shareholding and sought to insert himself in the restructuring plans. The move ultimately failed but Anex seems to be keen to play a bigger role in European tourism. It also bought Russian tourism company Intourist and is planning an initial public offering once it has recapitalized the business.
In France the Thomas cook spoils were divided up among a number of buyers, with 149 out of 174 finding a home thanks to a consortium of bidders, including Salaün Holidays, Karavel-Promovacances and Navitours according to local publication TourMag.
One surprise was that tour operator Jet Tours, which Thomas Cook bought from Club Med in 2008, couldn’t find a buyer.
German tour operator and hotel operator, Aldiana, has a new shareholder after Swiss investor LMEY Investments bought up Thomas Cook’s shareholding.
German tour operator Der Touristik has taken over hotel brand Sentido, a well-known name in the Germany, Austria and Switzerland markets.
“Our goal is to stabilize the Sentido hotel portfolio and expand it in perspective with new buildings. For interested hoteliers, our door is open,” said Ingo Burmester, CEO of Touristik Central Europe
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Photo credit: A Thomas Cook travel agency. The UK parent company went into liquidation in September. House Buy Fast / Flickr