Thomas Cook - the blame game continues

Thomas Cook went bust last month but had at least two near death experiences several years earlier.

But, as MPs found out this morning, the three former directors who ran the business during the last decade all blame each other for the company's collapse.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa joined Thomas Cook as a 16-year-old and ended up as chief executive between 2003 and 2011.

He earned well in excess of £16 million in pay and bonuses.

It was his decision to acquire My Travel in 2007 and Coop Travel in 2010, deals which left Thomas Cook with debts it struggled to repay and a vast network of high street shops at a time that money was moving online.

Fontenla-Novoa rejected the idea that Thomas Cook’s problems could be traced back to his time in charge, telling MPs he left business in a "fantastic" position and that his successors were to blame for what went wrong.

"There were eight annual statements, eight chairmen’s statements, and at no time did they say that debt was unmanageable. And at no time did they say they had to restructure the group. So presumably they felt the same as I did," he told MPs.

"I feel I got the major decisions right. The organisation collapsed in 2019. It was eight years after I left. I feel very sad about it."

Thousands were left stranded after the company went bust. Credit: PA

Thomas Cook's next chief executive was Harriett Green who ran the company between 2012 and 2014 - the year in which she won "Businesswoman of the Year".

Green earned £8.6m in her time at the business. She told MPs that when she took over, Thomas Cook had a "wall of debt" and was "out of sync with the industry."

She cut costs, closed shops, invested in online but just over two years into a six year "transformation plan" she was dismissed after falling out with the board.

"We'd done the first part of [the turnaround plan] in 28 months which was: renegotiate the debt, which was to build, with an advisory council, hundreds of people a digital business; to start those efficiencies, but I was not able to complete that work," Green said.

The failure of Thomas Cook will cost taxpayers millions.

MPs are clearly frustrated that no one from either the company or the accountancy firms that audited its accounts is willing to accept responsibility for its failure.

“It would be really good to see someone from Thomas Cook say to their customers, suppliers and their employees: ‘We got it wrong,'" Labour MP Rachel Reeves, said.

The business select committee will form its own judgment about what went wrong and who's to blame in the coming weeks.