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Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel tested positive for coronavirus, the company disclosed Wednesday in a financial filing. The online travel giant also said it has succession plans for all of its senior executives, suggesting they could cover temporarily for Fogel if necessary.
Fogel told employees his symptoms are mild, and he doesn’t believe he infected anyone at the company’s Norwalk, Connecticut headquarters since he’s been working from home for some time. He is currently quarantined, or “in lockdown,” as he put it, in a letter to employees, in New York.
[See the letter embedded and a video message to employees that are embedded below.}
In the letter, Fogel said he had “flu-like symptoms early last week,” got tested March 26, but only received the results Tuesday night.
“I am very grateful to have such a mild set of symptoms for just a couple of days last week and can now say that I feel fine,” Fogel wrote. “I have not had any fever since last week and no other symptoms for many days. So I feel good for myself but, of course, feel so terrible for everyone who has not been as fortunate and is dealing with more difficult times.”
Skift Interview With Fogel
In a telephone interview with Skift Wednesday evening, Fogel said he is 110 percent recovered, and had just been waiting for the test results, which took a few days to receive.
“I literally haven’t had a single symptom since” last Thursday and Friday when he had a mild fever, Fogel said. “I’m doing full workouts” on the treadmill.
He added that if you go by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, he’s fine to go anywhere, but can’t because of the lockdowns in New York and other states.
“Im very, very, very lucky,” Fogel said. “I’m the luckiest man around.”
Stress and the Economy
Asked if he had any underlying conditions to worry about, Fogel quipped: “Ya, the economy. I have to worry about that.”
“If you’re healthy and you pull through, that’s the most wonderful thing in the world,” he said, “and we”ll worry about the economics and all that stuff later.”
We asked Fogel if he feels under intense pressure. “I have a friend who’s a pulmonologist. That’s stress. That’s on the front line of a war.”
Eligible for the Relief Package?
Fogel said he’s “very happy” that the U.S. government stepped up to adopt the $2.2 trillion relief package. That’s a very good start. It’s nice that governments around the world are all starting to realize that it’s going to take a significant amount of government intervention to help make sure that the economies are kept afloat.”
Fogel said a second relief package will be necessary, and he’s happy that legislators are already working on it.
Asked whether Booking Holdings would be eligible for monies in the relief package, Fogel said: “We are still having our people look at what’s coming out. I don’t think there’s complete clarity yet about how this will all work. So we have to look through all the fine details about what is it, what are the conditions, what are the benefits, and see if that is appropriate for us or not.”
More Than 400,000 Customer Contacts Per Day
Fogel said he’s grateful for the work performed, including the technology involved to transition call center capabilities into employees’ homes.
Booking.com staff, he said, is handling more than 400,000 customer contacts per day, “which is many multiples of a peak in a high season,” Fogel said.
Customers are frustrated and need help, and Fogel said he’s glad employees are working so hard to provide that help.
“Most people are working from home,” Fogel said, adding that the company has roughly 27,000 employees. “To get that up and running (around the world) by our IT people, to create that, to be able to do that — and it works — is amazing.”
Fogel has been with the company for two decades, became CEO of Booking Holdings in January 2017, and took on the added role as CEO of its largest brand, Booking.com, last summer.
Here’s Fogel’s internal video message to employees.