Up to 2,500 jobs could be saved as Hays Travel set to buy 555 Thomas Cook stores after collapse of holiday company

Up to 2,500 jobs at Thomas Cook could be saved after Hays Travel, the UK's largest independent travel agent, today agreed to buy the historic holiday company's high street shops.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 14:02 pm

Hays Travel will acquire the entire retail portfolio of 555 former Thomas Cook shops after it signed a deal with the Official Receiver and Special Managers from KPMG.

Hays Travel has already employed more than 25% of the former Thomas Cook retail employees and is proposing to re-open the stores with immediate effect where possible and to take on up to 2,500 people.

Over 100 new jobs will be based at the company's Sunderland headquarters with the rest in shops across the UK.

John and Irene Hays (centre) with new recruits from Thomas Cook Joanne Tully (left) and Joanne Leightley (right).

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Thomas Cook was placed in compulsory liquidation on September 23rd, upon which the Official Receiver was appointed by the court as liquidator.

Special Managers from KPMG were also appointed by the court to assist the Official Receiver with the liquidation.

Hays Travel, at the invitation of the Civil Aviation Authority, immediately responded to support thousands of customers on holiday or with holidays booked.

They also offered jobs to over 600 former Thomas Cook employees, and offered to help all of the Thomas Cook apprentices to complete their training at theOfsted accredited Hays Travel Academy.

John and Irene Hays

The deal announced today involves re-opening retail premises that will complement Hays Travel's own 190 shops across the UK.

Hays Travel is a private company, jointly owned and managed by John Hays, Managing Director, and Irene Hays, Chair of the Hays Travel Group.

The company hopes to take on as many of the 2,500 former Thomas Cook retail employees as possible in the coming weeks, doubling its workforce.

rene said: "Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand and a pillar of the UK and the global travel industry. We will build on the good things Thomas Cook had –not least its people – and that will put us in even better stead for the future.

Hays Travel owner John Hays

"We all share a passion for the travel industry and we want to continue to build the company’s reputation for first class service and being a great place to work and develop a career."

John Hays said: "Our staff were devastated to hear about Thomas Cook and we all immediately felt we wanted to help.

"In the last two weeks we have already employed or offered jobs to around 600 former Thomas Cook colleagues, and it has been a very emotional experiencefor them.

"Now that we are able to re-open the shops, we are looking forward to welcoming many more people who share our passion for the travel industry, into our family business.

"I'm very proud of the fantastic team who have helped me build Hays Travel over almost 40 years and they have worked tirelessly over the last couple of weeks to bring this about.

"It is a game-changer for us, almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our workforce - and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people."

The 40-year-old Sunderland-based company reached sales of more than £1bn in 2018 and celebrated by sharing £1m with its 1900 employees, who each received £100 for every year they'd worked there.

Hays Travel has been included in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For for several years, and is currently the Investors in People UK's Best Large Company for Apprenticeships.

The team supporting Hays Travel throughout included lawyers Muckle LLP, financial advisers White Hart Associates and property consultants Identity Consult.

"This is an extremely positive outcome, and we are delighted to have secured this agreement," said Jim Tucker, a KPMG partner who was appointed joint special manager of Thomas Cook's retail division after the failure.

"It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees, and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street."

Mr Tucker said the administrators would work with Hays to "ensure a smooth transition of the store estate".

He added: "We are pleased to have achieved this in a short timeframe and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties."

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean for the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland, said: “Given the size of the Thomas Cook operation and value of the work undertaken it is of no surprise that well-placed competitors are keen to take over the most viable aspects of the business, after all Thomas Cook was a viable concern for a very long time and the travel market continues to grow.

“Additionally Thomas Cook had a large asset base which could be acquired and deployed, it could be argued, more effectively than it had been.

It’s clear here e the private sector can be instrumental in mitigating the impact of large corporate failure rather than direct intervention from the government, which was the request from Thomas Cook previously.

“Hays Travel are a well-managed and highly experienced operator in this field who have a strong track record. They have all the competencies required to turnaround the viable aspects of this business and in doing so ensuring that the livelihoods of so many employees are secured.

“It’s really a great outcome from a very difficult situation.”