Featured case:
The Thomas Cook Group, Plc Strategic Turnaround:
A CEO For a Season

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Frank Meysman, chairman of Thomas Cook Group, Plc.


Thomas Cook is an iconic travel brand, owning a number of tour operators, airlines and booking websites.


Meysman faced the biggest challenge of his career, as Thomas Cook were on the verge of collapse, after a series of acquisitions both in the UK and abroad were badly timed amidst the global crisis.

Moreover, poor cash conservation and cost control and complications in the business resulting from a lack of business integration, combined to make for a threatening liquidity problem.

When?Thomas Cook

Between 2008 and 2011, consumer spending was severely affected by the financial crisis and economic recession that followed.

Thomas Cook reached crisis point on 22 November 2011 when their share price tumbled almost three quarters to 13.48 pence.

It was around this time that Meysman joined and negotiated some breathing space from the banks and made sweeping changes to the board of directors, including the appointment of a new CEO.

By 2015, Thomas Cook was back to a position of strength, issuing a €400 million bond.


Thomas Cook is very much an international company and its board reflects that, composing people from Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands, the US and the UK.

Michael HealyKey quote

“How can you maintain a view and a vision when you’ve just been rolling in the muck with some unsecure creditor or supplier? It’s not easy.” – Michael Healy, Chief Financial Officer, Thomas Cook.

What next?

Thomas Cook is now looking to access long-term banking financing and is debating strategic points related to geographical expansion in China, as well as the Group’s position of an evolving airline industry.

But how does Meysman ensure the drive and momentum from the transformation of the company continue?

Interested in finding out more?

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The Thomas Cook Group, Plc Strategic Turnaround: A CEO For a Season
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Teaching note

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The author

Filipe Morais

Filipe discusses the lure of Thomas Cook, gaining key insights from Frank Meysman and the benefits of a Case Writing Scholarship.

Thought-provoking topic

Filipe said: “Thomas Cook is an iconic British company which underwent a very difficult period. 

Thought provoking topic

I had, during a period of two years, interviewed many dozens of FTSE 100 and 250 CEOs, chairs and other directors. From all the cases I have examined, Thomas Cook offered a complex turnaround situation coupled with interesting, rich and thought-provoking leadership and governance dynamics and lessons.”

Field research

Filipe added: “The case benefited immensely from the interviews conducted with Frank Meysman and colleagues because they provided nuance and context and importantly, it provided unique perspectives from different roles: CEO, CFO, Chair and other individuals. Many dilemmas and points of tension, which are normal in difficult circumstances, are given life by the real actors involved in the case.”

Engaging case

He continued: “I have tested the case with an MBA class and a group of 25 professionals of a financial services regulator. The feedback has been good.

“The contentious nature of the case along with its multiple dimensions which can be explored in class (for example, leading change, turnaround, governance and the role of the chair, succession planning) ensures that students engage and debate different perspectives.”

Building your contacts

He commented: “Alvarez & Marsal, a City of London turnaround specialist firm, facilitated the contacts with a number of companies, including Thomas Cook.

“This was done under a larger research programme collaboration between Alvarez & Marsal and Henley Business School. Thomas Cook from day one was very open and collaborative, so I was very lucky.

“But I would still encourage people to try and reach out – you never know.”

ScholarshipScholarship help

Filipe concluded: “The Case Writing Scholarship was invaluable in terms of the training provided on case writing. The peer review of the case by experienced case writers also added much value.

“In addition, the cash prize enabled me to do some travelling to meet individuals, and have interviews professionally transcribed.”

About the author

Filipe Morais is a Research Fellow at Henley Business School, The University of Reading.


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