Skift Take

Tripadvisor likely had a difficult time to fill this role. Several potential candidates begged off. This will be a heavy lift as the team tries to figure out the best future options.

Tripadvisor appointed Matt Goldberg, a former CEO of Lonely Planet who had ties to Tripadvisor Chairman Greg Maffei’s Liberty Media, thus ending co-founder Steve Kaufer’s  22-year run as CEO.

Goldberg will assume the CEO post on July 1.

From 2013 to 2016, Goldberg was head of corporate development at QVC Group, which was part of Maffei’s Liberty Interactive Corp.

Goldberg brings media, advertising, venture capital, and special purpose acquisition company experience to Tripadvisor, all of which could be key in case Tripadvisor embarks on a new strategy to reinvigorate the company, or in the event the Tripadvisor decides to spin out or execute other transactions with its brands, as was being publicly contemplated for tours and activities unit Viator and dining reservations platform TheFork.

Tripadvisor announced in November — six months ago — that Kaufer would step down as CEO once a successor was named.

In addition to Lonely Planet (2009-2013) and QVC (2013-2016), Goldberg’s resume includes time spent as global head of mergers and acquisitions and strategic alliances, head of India for News Corp (2016-2019); a partner role at Anthropocene Ventures (2021-present); executive vice president global operations at digital advertising firm The Trade Desk (July 2020-2021), and he was a founding member and a director of a Blue Ocean Acquisition Corp. SPAC (December 2021-present).

At a juncture when there are widespread calls to diversify corporate C-suites, Tripadvisor selected a white male with ties to the company’s longtime chairman, Maffei, who’s Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings has voting control (56.7 percent) of all stock classes. Goldberg headed corporate development at Liberty Interactive Corp.’s QVC Group until six years ago.

It may have been a somewhat hard job to fill, however. Skift spoke to a high-ranking executive at a competitor who said he knew of several people who were approached to apply for the Tripadvisor CEO role but they declined to get involved.

Although Tripadvisor said in its 2021 annual financial filing, issued in February, that “we have programs in place to promote diversity and inclusion,” it didn’t provide any statistics about that stance. In their respective annual reports, Airbnb said 48 percent of its global employees were women in 2021, and Booking’s number was 50 percent. Airbnb said 31 percent of its leadership ranks were women, and 14 percent of its U.S. workforce was “underrepresented minority populations.”

“We are excited to announce the appointment of Matt Goldberg to the role of CEO,” said Greg Maffei, Tripadvisor chairman in a statement. “Matt has proven leadership and experience in strategy and operations for more than 20 years across a number of leading media, advertising, and consumer-facing companies. We welcome him to the team and look forward to his expertise as he leads Tripadvisor in the next phase of its journey.”

It will now be up to Goldberg — and undoubtedly Maffei and the rest of the board — to chart a new course for Tripadvisor, whether it be reinvigorating or dropping its beleaguered subscription plan, Tripadvisor Plus, spinning out assets, digging into new partnerships, or selling the company.

“After a comprehensive search, I believe that the board has found a strong leader in Matt for our iconic brand.” said Kaufer in the announcement statement. “Our employees, partners and travelers will be well served by Matt who is a strategist with experience in the travel, digital, media and retail industries. I look forward to supporting his success and watching him guide this business into an exciting future.”

Tripadvisor announced in November that co-founder and CEO Steve Kaufer would step down in 2022 after the company tapped a successor. Tripadvisor conducted an internal and external search for a new CEO, and the odds were always skewed toward an appointee from outside the company to shake things up.

“I could not be more enthusiastic about joining Tripadvisor, a company I have long admired, whose leadership and teams have built an amazing, globally recognized consumer brand with a unique spot in travel and digital media,” said Goldberg in a statement. “I’m incredibly excited to return to the travel sector to innovate within the industry and leverage the platform’s reach and community trust. I see a long runway ahead and many opportunities to create value for our travelers and partners.”

The announcement of Kaufer’s departure took place after the company reversed course and changed the business model for its subscription plan, Tripadvisor Plus. The program, which initially offered up-front hotel discounts to subscribers for $99 per year, ran into stiff opposition from big hotel chains about rate parity issues, and is currently transitioning to offering what some might characterize as less-attractive, and likely smaller, cash-back payment plan redeemable during the stay or thereafter.

Kaufer has said the CEO change was not made because of any feeling by the board that he needed to go, and insisted that he had thought about leaving the company before the pandemic, but stayed on to steer the company through the crisis.

Still, the new CEO will clearly have to reshape Tripadvisor. The company has filed a registration statement — the details of which are still confidential — with the Securities and Exchange Commission — to take Tripadvisor’s Viator tours and activities business public, although Tripadvisor said it is weighing other options, too.

In addition, Tripadvisor is mulling ways to obtain more market value for its dining reservation platform TheFork, and is considering new ways of reporting the financials of both Viator and TheFork in earnings announcements. Their performance is currently combined in an Experiences & Dining reporting segment.

Both Viator and TheFork are transactions businesses, as is Tripadvisor’s vacation rentals business, while the bulk of Tripadvisor’s revenue comes from advertising revenue. The bulk of that is generated through its hotel-metasearch platform.

Tripadvisor Plus is only the latest of the company’s challenges. Its hotel metasearch platform used to be a must-participate among online travel agencies and hotels for marketing purposes, and most still use it, but Google Travel has sucked the proverbial air out of Tripadvisor’s business.

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Tags: ceos, diversity, greg maffei, loyalty, online travel newsletter, steve kaufer, subscriptions, tripadvisor, viator

Photo credit: Matt Goldberg is slated to become the new Tripadvisor CEO on July 1, 2022.