// MPs heard how Hays Travel paid £6 million to acquire the 555 Thomas Cook high street shops
// That equates to just £10,800 per store
// Thomas Cook collapsed with a massive debt pile
Hays Travel only paid Thomas Cook liquidators £6 million to acquire the collapsed tour operator’s high street stores, it has emerged.
During a parliamentary hearing yesterday around last month’s collapse of Thomas Cook, MPs were told by the Insolvency Service that Hays Travel paid just over £6 million to buy the 555 Thomas Cook shops – working out at only £10,800 for each site.
Speaking on Hays Travel’s store acquisition, which ultimately saved 2500 high street jobs, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee member Ian Liddell-Grainger MP said: “They bought 555 shops – £6 million is not a lot of money.”
MPs were also told that the two firms employed by Thomas Cook administrators have notched up fees of £11 million between them for the first three weeks alone after the collapse.
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Insolvency Service chief executive Dean Beale told MPs on BEIS committee that so-called special managers working on behalf of the liquidators – KPMG and AlixPartners – racked up the fees.
Beale added there were as many as 300 people from the two firms working on the liquidation at one stage immediately after Thomas Cook collapsed.
Beale also told the committee that the Insolvency Service – as official receiver of Thomas Cook – and its legal advisers are now looking into whether there is “any scope” for bonuses paid to Thomas Cook bosses could be clawed back.
The figures emerged as a former Thomas Cook boss denied saddling the holiday operator with a huge mountain of debt after a rapid expansion drive.
Manny Fontenla-Novoa – who was chief executive between 2003 and 2011 – told the BEIS committee that he believed the firm’s debt pile was “manageable” during his tenure.
He added that the management teams at the group since 2011 did not flag up at any time in its annual reports that debt levels were unmanageable.
However, Fontenla-Novoa and fellow ex-Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green both admitted different strategies could have saved the firm from collapse.
Despite this, neither took responsibility for Thomas Cook’s demise last month, which put 9000 UK jobs at risks and disrupted the travel plans of one million holidaymakers with future bookings.
It also sparked the biggest ever peacetime repatriation, with a two-week operation to fly 150,000 passengers back to the UK led by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The same parlaimentary committee heard last week from Peter Fankhauser – who was chief executive of Thomas Cook at the time of its collapse – that Fontenla-Novoa’s deal to buy MyTravel in 2007 was the root cause of the debts and following woes at the group.
While Fontenla-Novoa said he was “incredibly sad” Thomas Cook went bust, he denied it was his slew of deals and the burden of debt that ultimately led to its failure.