Having your top executives jailed is one thing. But as that issue recedes, Lastminute.com needs to deal with its under-performance issues and execute on strategy shifts.
Rocked by a Covid relief financial scandal that led to the jailing and resignations of now-former CEO Fabio Cannavale and chief operating officer Andrea Bertoli, Amsterdam-based Lastminute.com’s shareholders elected Luca Concone as an executive director, and he’ll serve as CEO.
The company announced Thursday that it won’t file an appeal, and will repay the Swiss government some 29 million euros (around $30.8 million), which authorities previously demanded, although the announcement didn’t cite a specific figure.
The financial scandal dates to mid-July when Swiss authorities began investigating whether Lastminute.com executives mishandled governmental Covid relief funds.
In November, the Swiss government told Lastminute.com that it must repay 29 million euros. “The company had already added a conservative provision of EUR 34 million (about $36 million) into its Q3 2022 results,” Lastminute.com said.
Cannavale and Bertoli, both of whom have been released from jail, served as executive directors on the board. Four other board members resigned before the vote this week.
Lastminute.com is conducting a search for a chief operating officer, who would likewise serve as an executive director, and run the package holiday and metasearch company’s global operations. So there would be two executive directors.
CEO Concone, who in 2006 became the chief financial officer of Milan, Italy, intends to focus on compliance issues in the wake of the financial scandal.
When Lastminute.com announced its slate of nominees for board positions in November, then-chairman Laurent Foata said: “With the proposal of the new board members with a strong background, and the reinforcement of the management team, the board believes to have taken the appropriate steps to allow to the Company a restart with a new governance in the best interest of the company and of its stakeholders.”
The vote on board slots took place Wednesday.
Laura Amoretti, who had been serving as interim CEO before Concone’s ascension to the post this week, stays on as interim chief operating officer. She’s a candidate to be a top executive board member with the chief operating officer title, the company said.
Among the slate of board nominees who were elected this week was Cyril Ranque as an independent, non-executive director. Ranque previously served for many years as president of Expedia’s travel partners group.
New CEO Luca Concone stated as part of the board vote announcement: “Lastminute.com is a great company with international appeal. Today, Lastminute.com is the European travel tech leader in dynamic holiday packages and has been at the forefront of online travel for nearly 25 years. We have great fundamentals, and nothing prevents us from being even more successful, but to do that we need to become leaner and stronger. It’s the start of a new era for Lastminute.com.”
The current Lastminute.com, founded as Bravofly Rumbo Group in 2004, is not to be confused with the iconic UK-based online travel agency Lastminute.com that launched in London in 1998. Texas-based Sabre sold Lastminute.com’s global operations to Bravolfly Rumbo Group in 2015, and the latter rebranded to Lastminute.com.
Lastminute.com today operates online travel agency and metasearch brands, including Lastminute.com, Volagratis, Rumbo, Bravofly, Weg.de, Jetcost, Hotelscan, Crocierissime, and Fwd. Its strongest presence is in Spain, Italy, UK, France and Germany.
“On the operational and strategic initiative, we are delivering what we planned,” Amoretti said during the company’s third quarter earnings call November 17. “Financially, we are continuing on our recovery path also in Q3 despite the investigation. Revenue and adjusted EBITDA are more than doubled in the first nine months of 2022. We have posted the provision related to the investigation.”
Lastminute.com has been underperforming in its core European markets compared with pre-pandemic 2019.
“Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain compared to 2019, which shows a steep recovery path from January to June,” Amoretti said regarding Lastminute.com’s performance in 2022. “Then the recovery slowed down due to the capacity disruption seen in the European airport as well as the rising fuel prices and deteriorating economic outlook in general, that obviously has a weigh on the recovery. So overall, we have seen ongoing recovery, flattened in the summer, but we are still below 2019 levels in our core European market.”
Among strategy shifts, the company is putting greater emphasis on selling dynamic packages, as opposed to marketing standalone flights or hotel stays, and is putting new emphasis on metasearch in the U.S. to supplement its comparison shopping business in France, for example.
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Photo credit: lastminute.com sponsor Lastminute.com has been a sponsor of the London Eye. Lastminute.com has a new CEO. JumpStory