Independent travel agent chain Hays Travel has agreed a deal to acquire Thomas Cook’s entire UK retail estate, which could save up to 2,500 jobs.
The official receiver and special managers from KPMG announced that an agreement has been reached, and the move will see the travel agent will acquire a total of 555 stores around the UK, providing re-employment opportunities for a “significant” number of former employees of Thomas Cook’s retail operations.
Hays Travel have already recruited 421 former Thomas Cook personnel and have further offers outstanding to former employees. The travel agent is the country’s largest independent travel agent and also runs the Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents.
KPMG were appointed as special managers to Thomas Cooks’ retail and aircraft maintenance divisions the day after its collapse (24 September).
David Chapman, official receiver, said: “I am pleased to announce we have reached an agreement with Hays Travel to acquire Thomas Cook’s entire UK retail estate, comprising 555 stores across the country.
“This represents an important step in the liquidation process, as we seek to realise the company’s assets.”
Jim Tucker, partner at KPMG and joint special manager of Thomas Cook’s Retail division, said: “This is an extremely positive outcome, and we are delighted to have secured this agreement. 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.
“We are pleased to have achieved this in a short time frame and in the context of a complex liquidation process, which is testament to a lot of hard work from a number of parties.”
Over the weeks ahead, we will work closely with Hays Travel and landlords to ensure a smooth transition of the store estate.
John and Irene Hays, managing director and group chair of Hays Travel Limited, said: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand employing talented people. We look forward to working with many of them.”
It comes after all of the companies in Thomas Cook’s group, including Thomas Cook Airlines, ceased trading on 23 September, leaving over 21,000 staff out of work.
All 555 of Thomas Cook’s retail shops closed at the time after the company was denied a government bailout of £250m. Thomas Cook’s CEO Peter Fankhauser said the firm’s collapse was a “matter of profound regret”.