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Thomas Cook CEO and chair to be grilled by MPs on collapse next week

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Peter Fankhauser, former CEO of Thomas Cook. Photo: Kielmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Thomas Cook’s former chief executive and chairman are set to be grilled by MPs next week over the collapse of the historic travel operator.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee announced on Thursday that its inquiry into the management and subsequent collapse of Thomas Cook will begin next Tuesday with evidence from former CEO Peter Fankhauser and chairman Peter Meysman. The pair will be grilled on their management of Thomas Cook, accounting practices, executive pay, and the high levels of debt taken on by the company that ultimately led to its demise.

Thomas Cook’s former chief financial officer, the chair of its audit committee, and chair of its remuneration committee will all also face the committee next Tuesday.

The BEIS inquiry is one of several high-profile investigations into the collapse of Thomas Cook, which went bust last month. The collapse of the 178-year-old travel operator left 150,000 customers stranded overseas and put about 9,000 staff out of work, although some jobs have since been salvaged. The government has been left to pick up the pieces, with some estimates putting the cost at over half a billion pounds.

Thomas Cook’s management have been heavily criticised in the wake of the travel operator’s collapse after it emerged that executives were paid £20m in pay and bonuses in the five years before the business collapsed. Transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested directors could have their bonuses clawed back or be disqualified from future roles.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the BEIS committee, said when the inquiry was first announced: “Amid the frustration of holidaymakers and the misery of thousands of staff losing their jobs, the collapse of Thomas Cook has uncovered what appears to be a sorry tale of corporate greed.”

She said there were “serious questions about the actions of Thomas Cook’s bosses and their stewardship of the business.”

The BEIS committee said on Thursday that Thomas Cook’s auditors PwC and EY will also appear before the committee to answer questions on 22 October. Thomas Cook’s excessive use of “exceptional costs” to massage its profit numbers has also been criticised in recent weeks and former auditors EY is facing a separate investigation led by the Financial Reporting Council.

Tuesday’s hearing is set to begin at 9am in parliament.