Iconic British travel operator and airline Thomas Cook Group has entered compulsory liquidation after talks with a potential buyer collapsed.
The company, which is popular with travelling conference delegates, has been operating for 178 years.
The operator’s failure puts 22,000 jobs at risk worldwide.
An application was made to the High Court in London for a compulsory liquidation of the company before opening of business on 23 September, and an order was granted to appoint the Official Receiver as the liquidator of the company.
Thomas Cook bosses say they anticipate that the official receiver will make an application to the High Court for members of AlixPartners UK LLP to be appointed as special managers in respect of the Company, to act on behalf of the official receiver.
The liquidation covers all Thomas Cook Group companies, with members of either AlixPartners UK LLP or KPMG LLP (depending on the company) being appointed as Special Managers in respect of the relevant Group companies.
The operator said that AlixPartners UK LLP would work “very closely” with the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, to repatriate all UK travellers impacted.
Peter Fankhauser, Chief Executive of Thomas Cook, said in a statement: “We have worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future for its employees, customers and suppliers. Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable.
“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful. I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years. Despite huge uncertainty over recent weeks, our teams continued to put customers first, showing why Thomas Cook is one of the best-loved brands in travel.
“Generations of customers entrusted their family holiday to Thomas Cook because our people kept our customers at the heart of the business and maintained our founder’s spirit of innovation.
“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
The UK Government has chartered 45 jets to bring stranded customers home and they will fly 64 routes on 23 September, in an undertaking dubbed Operation Matterhorn. The size of the fleet will make it temporarily the UK’s fifth-largest airline.
Thomas Cook Group final incarnation was the result of a June 2007 merger of Thomas Cook AG and MyTravel Group. The group operated in two separate segments: a tour operator and an airline. Thomas Cook was listed on both the London Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Thomas Cook ran UK domestic ticket and hotel packages for sporting events.
As the business has ceased trading, they would no longer be valid, although anyone with trips planned could try contacting the destination direct.
Customers can visit the CAA’s special Thomas Cook website. Those scheduled to return to the UK within the next 48 hours or who are having problems with their accommodation or need special assistance can ring 0300 303 2800 in the UK or +44 1753 330 330 from abroad.