25 December 2008

Revolving Doors/Confusion at Expedia EMEA

Expedia EMEA seems to be having a hard time getting it right. After a stellar start and early market share capture almost entirely organic in the UK and Germany - The business seems to be having a hard time finding its way.

Why is this important? Expedia Europe is a major part of the growth for the company. As the US market turns down - the European area has been the source of good growth in recent years. However despite that other than the UK and perhaps another market - the company has nothing like the footprint of its original market.

The departure is the latest in a line of changes at Expedia following a management shake-up in November which saw the departure of Europe president Dermot Halpin and Expedia Partner Services boss Paul Brown. Halpin is due to leave by the end of the year.

So let's see if we can follow the chronology. Early this year we saw a set of changes that following the exit of managing director Caroline Cartellieri (who is now COO for Myspace EU) from Expedia UK (April) as part of the overall shake up also saw long time DE head Jens Parkitny exit after 11 years. The focus was to build a strong platform and then focus on country. At the same time Alex Zivoder was promoted in to SVP Europe. He also took direct charge of the .co.uk biz.

Well that didn't last long.

In October there was a big change with the focus back on brands and an end to acquisitions - for Europe the last one being Venere.com based in Italy. This was most probably a counter to the success of Priceline's EMEA brands Booking.com and Active Hotels who have been powering Priceline's top and bottom line growth. David Roche was promoted to be president of the revived Hotels.com (now included Venere). This saw also Paul Brown exit stage left to be head of global brands and shared services at Hilton - IE essentially god of everything. But wait there is more - Dermot Halpin another hi-flyer was also given the boot. There were a bunch of other changes but this was it for now. Halpin was due to leave at the end of the year.

At the end of December - Alex Zivonder quit to become managing director for online ticketing service Viagogo. Expedia has not announced who will take over responsibility for European operations. Nominally Eric Grosse, as president for Expedia Worldwide, the chap and should have overall control when Halpin leaves.

Expedia head honcho Dara Khosrowshahi, is pitching in and running the Partner Services Group until a replacement is found. Also lurking around is Henrik Kjellberg who is now president for Expedia Distribution Worldwide in addition he retains his role as chairman of eLong, Expedia Inc's majority owned Chinese OTA.

Coming up is the potential divorce for the SNCF Voyages JV in France which has puttered along since September 2001.

Confused? Imagine what it must be like working there...


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