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The dominos are falling over the dashed hopes for Tripadvisor Plus. Chalk up CEO Kaufer and Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Nelson as among the casualties with potentially more to come.

Lindsay Nelson, the Tripadvisor chief experience and brand officer who incubated the moribund Tripadvisor Plus subscription program and shepherded signing on members, will leave her post in January, the company announced Friday. A corporate filing characterized it as a “termination.”

The statement came less than two weeks after the company announced Tripadvisor CEO Steve Kaufer will leave the company pending the hiring of a successor, and two months after Tripadvisor decided to reverse course on aspects of its subscription program because of opposition from hotel chains.

“For purposes of the Company’s Executive Severance Plan and Summary Plan Description (the “Severance Plan”), Ms. Nelson’s departure will be treated as a termination of employment without Cause as of January 9, 2022,” a financial filing stated. Nelson will stay on in an advisory role through the end of February, it said.

Nelson incubated the subscription plan, and was responsible for its consumer-facing aspects. Kanika Soni, Tripadvisor’s chief commercial officer, oversees the business-to-business portion, including enrolling hotel chains who resisted. Tripadvisor still has high hopes for the membership plan although it upended the way it works.

Nelson declined to comment. Tripadvisor followed the classic corporate playbook for surreptitiously releasing bad news by quietly including it in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released after market close on a Friday and ahead of a long holiday stretch. 

Ultimately Kaufer, who has been CEO for 22 years, is responsible for Tripadvisor Plus. He has said publicly that his departure is not about the company needing a change, and that he thought about leaving for awhile but didn’t want to depart during the heights of the Covid crisis.

But with Tripadvisor struggling for years to adequately monetize its vast consumer audience, some pundits have whispered that it was long time to shake things up and to bring on a new CEO.

If one were to draw up a list of potential Kaufer successors prior to the Tripadvisor Plus crisis, both Nelson and Soni, as well as Chief Financial Officer Ernst Teunisson, would have been high on the list among internal candidates.

Tripadvisor is currently using a search firm to recruit a new CEO among internal and external candidates, and Kaufer said bringing on a diverse leader would be an important consideration.

With the likely emphasis on candidates with product and subscription experience, Nelson wouldn’t have been on the short list, for sure.

“Lindsay has created a lot of value over the last three years at Tripadvisor, and she will undoubtedly leverage her talents elsewhere as she transitions out early next year, and we wish her well,” said spokesman Brian Hoyt. “Moving forward, Tripadvisor’s top areas of focus and opportunity as we move into 2022 and beyond is working to further develop and grow our subscription businesses, such as Tripadvisor Plus, and our high-growth Experiences and Dining offerings. We will look to bring in leaders who can help us achieve these business objectives as the company evolves.”

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Tags: loyalty, steve kaufer, subscriptions, tripadvisor

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