Thomas Cook Travel Inc.
Assets Acquired by American Express in 1994 (Brand Name Not Acquired)
Employees: 4,000 (1993)
Sales: $1.9 billion (1993)
Prior to its acquisition by the American Express Company in 1994, Thomas Cook Travel Inc. was the third-largest travel agency in the United States. At the time of the takeover, Thomas Cook operated 500 offices across the country and sold one out of every 50 airline tickets in the United States. Staffed by more than 3,000 employees, the company had an impressive roster of business clients including Ford Motor Co., AT&T, and John Hancock Financial Services. Independently owned by Linda and David Paresky, Thomas Cook Travel licensed its name from the oldest travel agency in the world, The Thomas Cook Group Ltd., based in the United Kingdom.
Thomas Cook Is Founded in 1841
The Thomas Cook Group Ltd. was the eponymous creation of an industrious English entrepreneur. From a humble beginning chartering a train to a temperance rally in 1841, Cook expanded his business into one of the world’s first full-service travel firms. After the resounding success of his first venture, Cook quickly expanded his operations, providing rail trips and making hotel reservations for customers for journeys all over the British Isles. Cook’s excursions proved so popular that he began offering trips to Europe, North America, and—beginning in 1871—around the world. Buoyed by these successes, Cook’s company was able to open 120 travel offices in the United Kingdom and abroad by 1885, and Cook himself branched out to write guidebooks. The company also remained on the cutting edge of developments in the travel industry. Thomas Cook Ltd. began offering cruise trips as early as the mid-1870s, pioneered an early form of travelers’ check, and was booking air travel by 1911, a mere eight years after the Wright Brothers made history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The company also had a long history in the American market. Just months after the Civil War ended in 1865, Cook’s ran its first U.S. tour, which included stops at various battlefields. Six years later, Cook formed a partnership with an American businessman that they called Cook, Son & Jenkins. This relationship subsequently dissolved acrimoniously, but by then it had helped Cook’s entrench itself in the American market. To bolster its business further, the company took a pavilion at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876, and later expanded its offerings to include not just traditional sightseeing trips but even travel packages for immigrants coming to the United States and Canada. By 1896, Cook’s American business made travel arrangements to the Klondike for gold prospectors.
Control of the company remained with the Cook family until the late 1920s. Thomas Cook himself had died in 1892, and his son and business partner did the same eight years later. His three grandsons then ran the company until the last of them retired in 1928, at which point it was sold to a Belgian travel concern, Compagnie des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeens. When Germany occupied Belgium in World War II, the company was taken over by the German Custodian of Enemy Properties, but the British government arranged for it to be re-acquired by several railway companies at the close of the war. When the railroads were nationalized in 1948, ownership of Thomas Cook Ltd. passed to the crown as well.
Although Thomas Cook had become an institution both in the United Kingdom and the United States, the company risked losing touch with younger consumers in the 1960s. As a state-run business, Thomas Cook was unable to invest the same level of funding into its operations that its private rivals could. While other travel agencies crafted new strategies to attract more customers and increase revenue, such as purchasing airlines, Thomas Cook saw its sales flatten. As a result, the British government tentatively explored selling the travel agency.
U.S. Corporate Laws Prevent New Owner of Thomas Cook from Owning U.S. Offices
Midland Bank acquired Thomas Cook in 1974. Since U.S. banking laws prohibited any national bank—such as Midland—from owning domestic travel agencies, Midland sold Thomas Cook’s U.S. operations to Dun & Bradstreet in 1975. Midland did not relinquish control of the Thomas Cook name, but Dun & Bradstreet was allowed to continue to operate the U.S. travel agencies under the Cook name through a licensing agreement. Although The Thomas Cook Group Ltd. had no equity in the American operations, it did link the agencies into its travel network. More importantly, the British branch could supply the independent American offices with travelers’ checks, which represented an increasing portion of The Thomas Cook Group Ltd.’s revenues. Only American Express outperformed Cook in this segment of the travel industry.
Crimson Travel Is Founded and Flourishes
At about the same time that Dun & Bradstreet made this pivotal purchase, Crimson Travel Service—the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based travel agency that would later carry the Thomas Cook American franchise—began to expand. Founded in 1965 by the husband-and-wife duo David and Linda Paresky, Crimson quickly grew through creative marketing efforts. Graced with the same gift for travel innovation as Thomas Cook, Paresky launched a number of bold initiatives. As a competitor explained in the September 18, 1994, Boston Globe, “Paresky saw before most of us that the masses wanted to go, and he knew where they wanted to go.” Crimson chartered several immensely popular “Cruises to Nowhere,” that brought the luxury of a cruise vacation to middle-class consumers. In 1968 the company forged a strategic alliance with a Western-themed television show called “Boomtown,” whereby Crimson chartered mass trips for kids (guided by Trailer, the show’s host) and received ample exposure in the process. The “Boom-town” trips were a huge success and continued through the 1990s. By 1969 Crimson had opened its third Boston-area branch office, and its leisure travel business soared. By 1987 the company reported billings of $150 million.
As Crimson saw its fortune rise, the travel industry as a whole experienced tectonic changes in the 1980s. The frenetic globalization of American business meant that corporate employees traveled more frequently and purchased a growing percentage of airline tickets. Since Crimson’s revenues came mostly from vacationers, not business people, the company would risk its future profitability if it did not develop the corporate side of its operations. In 1988 Crimson purchased Heritage Travel, a rival Cambridge agency. Not only was Heritage equipped with cutting-edge computer technology, but it also ran a formidable corporate business.
Thomas Cook Changes Ownership in 1988
In 1988 Dun & Bradstreet put Thomas Cook up for sale in order to concentrate on its core marketing, credit risk, finance, and directory information divisions. Publishing magnate Robert Maxwell purchased Thomas Cook in 1989, and immediately renewed the licensing agreement with Midland to use the storied Cook name. At the time of Maxwell’s acquisition, Thomas Cook was a sizable operation, generating sales of $365 million and operating 60 full-service locations and nine regional reservation centers. Many industry analysts speculated that Maxwell would quickly sell the company, since publishing was his primary concern. However, Maxwell pledged to expand Thomas Cook through a series of acquisitions that would make the franchise the leading American travel service firm.
But despite his protestations to the contrary, Maxwell sold a 50 percent stake in Thomas Cook to the Pareskys’ Crimson/Heritage business in 1988. With Maxwell, the Pareskys presided over the third-largest agency in the country, with revenues topping $1.3 billion. David Paresky served as president, chairman, and chief executive of his new empire, and he moved Thomas Cook’s corporate headquarters from New York City to Cambridge. The co-owners quickly turned to bolstering Thomas Cook’s roster of corporate clients.
While the ownership of Thomas Cook changed hands in the United States, the keeper of the coveted license—The Thomas Cook Group Ltd.—went through its own shifts. In 1992 Midland sold its subsidiary to LTU Group, one of Germany’s largest tour operators, and Westdeutsche Landesbanke, a German bank. Westdeutsche Landesbanke purchased 90 percent of The Thomas Cook Group Ltd.’s shares, while LTU Group controlled the remaining ten. The Orange Country Register was quick to point out to its readers that the sale in no way affected Thomas Cook Travel Inc. “The company licenses the name and expects to continue doing so under the new ownership,” noted the paper.
- Thomas Cook organizes his first commercial tour.
- Company is sold to Compagnie des Wagons-Lits etdes Grands Express Europeens.
- Thomas Cook falls under the control of the British government.
- Crimson Travel is founded by David and Linda Paresky.
- Midland Bank acquires Thomas Cook Travel Inc.
- Dun & Bradstreet purchases Thomas Cook Travel.
- Robert Maxwell acquires the company and sells a 50 percent stake to the Pareskys.
- The Paresky s gain 100 percent control of Thomas Cook Travel.
- The Pareskys sell the business to American Express.
The Pareskys Gain 100 Percent Control of Thomas Cook Travel
Although Thomas Cook Travel Inc. had no problems with the license, the company did endure some turbulent times in 1991 when Maxwell died suddenly. One of his privately held companies, Headington Holdings Limited, went into bankruptcy. Headington owned Maxwell Travel Inc., which in turn owned Maxwell’s 50 percent share of Thomas Cook. A number of potential buyers hungrily eyed the stake in Thomas Cook, including Midland Bank, which had by then divested the bank that had prevented it from owning the chain in 1979. Paresky had right of first refusal, though, and in 1993 he and his wife purchased the Maxwell stake.
Even with complete control of Thomas Cook Travel, Paresky planned no major changes. “We’re continuing with the same strategy we’ve had before, differentiating our service through innovation and quality,” he told The Boston Globe on January 12, 1993. “I don’t think our operating philosophy will change.” 1993 sales soared to over $1.7 billion, and the company ran approximately 500 offices throughout the United States.
Paresky’s efforts to bolster Thomas Cook’s corporate accounts had succeeded. At the close of 1993, 84 percent of the company’s sales were from businesses. Thomas Cook’s list of clients was impressive. Ford Motor Co., Fidelity Investment, Hewlett-Packard, and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. all made their travel arrangements through Thomas Cook. In 1994 the company won three more substantial accounts—the British Embassy, Walsh America, and Pharmaceutical Marketing Services Inc.
Sale to American Express
Despite their success, the Pareskys approached arch-rival American Express about selling Thomas Cook. “American Express will bring more size and more strength and more ability to invest in our people,” Paresky explained to Travel Weekly on September 15, 1994. To the Boston Globe, Paresky admitted that the cost of upgrading technology to better serve global business travelers was a factor in the decision to sell. American Express had much to gain from the purchase. Already gigantic—with over 1,700 travel offices in more than 120 nations—American Express would boost its annual sales an additional 33 percent with this new division. The acquisition also had significant prestige value. Although American Express had recently snapped up five other large agencies, the Cook deal was to be the largest takeover in the history of the travel industry.
The transaction was finalized in September 1994 with American Express paying $375 million for the company. Although they had relinquished their ownership interests, the Pareskys remained involved in the business. Both were appointed vice-presidents, and in 1995, David Paresky was reported to be “in line” to become president of American Express Travel.
American Express also moved to acquire the corporate accounts of The Thomas Cook Group Ltd. (which represented about ten percent of the British company’s total revenues). While this segment of the business was lucrative, The Group was willing to part with it to in order to concentrate on servicing leisure travelers and on its burgeoning financial services division. However, American Express was not able to obtain from The Group the rights to the venerable Thomas Cook name. The Pareskys’ licensing agreement had been due to expire in 1999, and, according to the Guardian, The Thomas Cook Group Ltd. took immediate steps to secure a new licensee. As a result, all former Thomas Cook offices were to be re-christened American Express.
Ackerman, Jerry, “American Express to Cut about 300 Jobs,” Boston Globe, May 23, 1995.
——, “Crimson to Cook to Gold,” Boston Globe, September 18,1994.
Carroll, Cathy, “American Express Buys Thomas Cook,” Travel Weekly, September 15, 1994.
Gilpin, Kenneth, “American Express to Expand Travel Arm,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 10, 1994.
Golden, Fran, ’ ’Industry Weighs Impact of Crimson/Heritage-Thomas Cook Merger,” Travel Weekly, December 28, 1989, pp. 17-18.
——, “Maxwell to Buy Thomas Cook Travel,” Travel Weekly, February 16, 1989, p. 1.
——, “Thomas Cook Joins Forces with Crimson,” Travel Weekly, December 18, 1989, p. 1.
Sit, Mary, “Executives Buy Thomas Cook Travel,” Boston Globe, January 12, 1993.
Stone, John, “Thomas Cook Group Sold to New Owners,” Tour & Travel News, June 15, 1992.
Swinglehurst, Edmund, Cook’s Tours: The Story of Popular Travel, Dorset, England: Blandford Press, 1982.
——, The Romantic Journey: The Story of Thomas Cook and Victorian Travel, New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
“Top Officers Buy Remaining Interest in Thomas Cook,” Associated Press, January 11, 1993.
Tran, Mark, “AmEx Set to Snap up US Travel Rival,” Guardian, September 10, 1994.
—Wendy J. Stein
—updated by Rebecca Stanfel
Thomas Cook Travel Inc.
100 Cambridge Park Dr.
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140
Revenues: $1.7 billion
SICs: 4724 Travel Agencies
Thomas Cook Travel Inc. is the third largest travel agency in the United States, with revenues of more than $1.7 billion annually. Although Thomas Cook Travel is independently owned, it is part of the global network of Thomas Cook Group Ltd, which issued the American company license to use the Cook name.
Thomas Cook Travel’s roots date back to 1841 in Victorian England, when Thomas Cook organized his first chartered excursion aboard an English train. Cook began his travel career at the age of 33, while he was secretary of the Leicester Temperance Society. He convinced his employer to allow him to charter a special train to take members of the society to Lough-borough for a temperance rally. He then appealed to the Midland Counties Railway Company for a chartered train.
The railroad—which was in need of new passengers since rail travel was new, and the public was skeptical about its safety and put off by high fares—agreed to charter a train for Cook at a reasonable cost on Cook’s promise that he could fill it. Cook heavily promoted the train ride and the rally with posters on walls and fences throughout the area. This first Thomas Cook excursion was an overwhelming success: the train was filled, as the rally in Loughborough attracted 2,000 people, many of whom were clearly not advocates of temperance so much as they were anxious to participate in Cook’s adventure.
In 1845, Cook decided to begin arranging tours for the general public as a commercial enterprise. His first tour was to Liverpool, England’s gateway to North Wales and North America at that time. He convinced four railways to let him charter trains at a reduced rate. He also arranged for side tours, wrote and printed a guide book for the trip, and visited hotels and restaurants in Liverpool ahead of time so that he could personally recommend accommodations to his travelers. This first trip was an overwhelming success with the 350 first and second class tickets completely sold out. Cook’s next trip, to Glasgow, Scotland, again sold out the 350 available tickets. Over the next ten years, Cook arranged more tours in Britain as excitement about travel and tourism grew throughout the country.
In 1851 London hosted the Great Exhibition to impress foreign markets with British products and industry as well as to tout the progress brought about through the Industrial Revolution. An opportunity for the country to inspire its own workers with the technological advances being made, the Great Exhibition was also a great impetus for Cook’s travel business. Cook heavily promoted the Great Exhibition among workers and their employers as a unique educational opportunity. He also traveled to London and made arrangements for accommodations affordable to working class travelers. When the fare he arranged with Midland Railway was bettered by a competing rail company, Cook had to renegotiate a lower fare with a guarantee of more passengers.
Soon Cook was looking to the Continent for new destinations. He was also looking to the professional class of teachers, doctors, and clergy as a new market for his travel services. One of the earliest Cook foreign excursions was a trip to the Paris Exhibition in 1855. When the Brighton and South Coast Railway refused to charter a train for Cook, he arranged for his group to travel via a circuitous route through Harwich, Antwerp, and Cologne, and then down the Rhine river to Paris.
The International Exhibition of 1862 in London was an opportunity to recreate the success of the exhibition of 1851. This time, however, Midland Railways decided to handle rail traffic itself, cutting Cook out of the tour business to the event. Undaunted, Cook focused on hotel accommodations for travelers to the event, once again meeting with great success. He was also busy promoting trips to a newly popular destination— the seashore.
Having resolved his difficulties with the Brighton and South Coast Railway, the tours to Paris were more direct, and Cook was ready to announce a tour to Switzerland. Soon, he was arranging tours to Italy as well. Although he did not speak Italian, he managed to convince railway companies and hotels to provide the necessary services and to honor his ticket and coupon system. The Italian tours quickly became his most popular service.
In 1864, Cook entered the guide book business, producing comprehensive guides to his various destinations. The following year, Cook moved his headquarters from Leicester to a building he purchased in London. On the first floor Cook maintained an office and shop, where he sold a wide array of travel products, such as guide books, luggage, telescopes, and footwear. He also ran an advertising agency for provincial and London newspapers. Upstairs were the family living quarters and a Temperance Hotel that he and his wife ran.
As a youth and teenager, John Mason Cook, Cook’s son, had helped out on tours, but had remained in Leicester as a printer when the family moved to London. When Cook and his wife needed help they summoned him to join them. John Mason was reluctant, as he and his father had different views on how the business should be run, but he eventually moved to London to become manager of the London travel office. The London office was a great success. Londoners were eager to book tours on Cook’s Tour and Excursion systems. Railway and hotel managers and owners were also approaching Cook to promote their services.
Cook also began plans for excursions to the United States. He traveled to North American only months after the U.S. Civil War had ended and toured such cities as Detroit, Chicago, Springfield, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, as well as several cities in Canada. He became convinced that the time was right for a Thomas Cook excursion of English travelers to America. In 1865, the first American tour left England, picking up passengers from several departure points, with John Mason in charge. The trip included a tour of Civil War battlefields.
In 1871, Cook went into partnership with an American, forming Cook, Son and Jenkins, and the company continued its American tours for the English. However, the relationship between John Mason and Jenkins eventually soured, in part because the younger Cook did not approve of Jenkins’s handling of company finances and was convinced that Jenkins’s lavish spending could destroy the company. When John Mason accused the American partner of embezzlement, the partnership was dissolved, and Jenkins brought a legal suit against Cook and his son. Jenkins won the suit and was awarded the grand total of six cents.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 had opened up travel to India and the Far East, and the first Cook tour around the world was conducted in 1871 with an international group of eleven tourists, including American, British, Scottish, Russian, and Greek travelers. This first tour started with an Atlantic crossing, then a journey across the United States to San Francisco, where the tour caught a ship to Japan, China, and then India and the Red Sea. It then joined up with other Cook tours operating between Cairo and London.
Trips to Egypt had proved quite popular, with tours bringing travelers across Europe by train and then on to Port Said by steamer. There was steady traffic by civil and military personnel as well as British tourists curious to see this country newly available to them. Because Middle East tours usually included a trip to the Holy Land, where there were few hotels and transportation was unreliable, Cook organized his own luxury camps to accommodate his travelers. His caravans moved across the desert with pack animals carrying tourists, supplies, and equipment that included bedsteads and mattresses, carpets for tent floors, and tables and chairs. By the 1890s, business to Egypt was booming. Thomas Cook and Son soon became the largest employer in the country, maintaining office staff, staff for the desert camps, crews on the Nile steamers, attendants for the animals, men at shipbuilding yards to assemble steamers brought in pieces from Britain, and people to grow vegetables and raise chickens to be served to tourists.
Upon his return from a year’s tour around the world in the 1870s, Thomas Cook had a serious disagreement with his son that led to Thomas’s semi-retirement from the company. The relationship between father and son had always been strained, and John Mason finally gave his father an ultimatum stating that he would leave unless his father gave him sole leadership. Thomas, now in his seventies, realized that his son was the better businessman and did as his son demanded. John Mason’s sons, Frank, Ernest, and Thomas, joined the firm in the late 1870s. The three brothers traveled all over the world, and by 1880 they had helped the company expand to 60 offices worldwide. Five years later, there were 120 Cook offices.
John Mason Cook ruled the company autocratically. Running a worldwide company was particularly difficult in those days when travel and communication were slow and arduous. Nevertheless, profits continued to increase, and the Cooks had more business than they could handle. Soon competition in the industry arose, particularly from the firm of Dean and Dawson, which later would become a Cook subsidiary.
By 1876 the company had become particularly familiar to Americans, having established a presence at the American Centennial celebration in Philadelphia. The Cook pavilion was a popular attraction at the Centennial. By the 1880s, most Americans had heard of Thomas Cook and Son’s travel company. In addition to its U.S. and European excursions, the company had begun offering Circular Notes, an early form of travelers’ checks, which became popular as a safe way for Cook’s customers to carry money. The number of hotels that would cash these notes grew steadily, and by 1880, almost 1,000 hotels would cash the checks for tourists in Europe and the United States. During this time, the company also arranged for special immigrant fares to Canada and the United States. Some fares even included a small plot of land on which the new immigrants could build a home. By 1896 Cook’s American business was offering travel arrangements to the Klondike for both Americans and Europeans with gold fever.
The company also developed sea tours. These first “cruises” departed and returned to the same port; travelers spent a holiday at sea with the ship as their hotel. The first such tour was the Midnight Sun Voyage to the North Cape in Scandinavia with the Bergen line of ships in 1875. By the 1890s, shipboard holidays were very popular. After World War I cruise business showed the most growth because the large number of spare ships available allowed ship lines to offer trips at bargain prices. The popularity of cruises continued until World War II erupted.
Thomas Cook died in 1892, and John Mason Cook died only eight years after his father. John Mason’s three sons carried on the family business, and, during their stewardship, Cook began offering the latest mode of travel—flight. Their first venture into air tourism was in 1911 when they made an agreement to sell tickets for excursions of an airship around Lucerne and around Burgenstock and the Righi. Cook received a six percent commission for each passenger booked. In 1919, its first advertisement for airplane flights appeared in The Times, simply offering the opportunity to experience flight. The next year, however, Cook was offering business or pleasure flights aboard converted war-time planes. The company printed a brochure informing travelers that air travel aboard these planes was safe and reliable and that the flight to Paris took just less than three hours. Although competition among the new airlines was fierce, passengers were few. Airlines began offering incentives such as limousine service to the airfield. Gradually, they also started offering food in flight, and by 1927, a full menu was available.
The Cooks set out to make airline contracts all over the world. Passenger flying had begun in the United States in 1926, and the Cooks made contracts there with three airlines. Cook provided passengers and booked reservations, while the airline was responsible for maintaining the planes and providing safe transport.
By 1928, all three of John Mason’s sons had retired from the company, which was then sold to the Belgian Compagnie des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeens, a company formed by George Nagelmackers in the 1870s to construct and develop the use of sleeping and restaurant cars on trains and which also had established the Orient Express and several luxury hotels.
Under its new ownership, Cook began offering an increasing number of motor tours, including an automobile trip to the desert and the Oasis of Bou-Saada in Algeria. Air traffic also grew in popularity because of the travel time it saved. Although planes could not compete on the transatlantic crossing because they could not carry enough fuel, German zeppelins ran regular flights to Rio de Janeiro and North America. Cook, always at the forefront of travel, advertised these journeys of the Graf Zeppelin which traveled to America and the Middle East and even made a round-the-world flight in 1929. The explosion of the hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey, however, once again virtually eliminated attempts at transatlantic flight. Airplane flights from England to the Middle East and to South Africa were routine as they could be undertaken in stages.
Imperial Airways and Pan American began experimenting with flying boats in the early 1930s, and by 1939 Cook was advertising a round-the-world tour with the Yankee Clipper carrying passengers across the long ocean stretches of the journey. World War II brought an end to travel in many areas of the world, and Cook downsized. However, the company still offered holidays in areas outside the war zones. During the war, Cook operated a letter service through Portugal for people left behind the enemy lines and helped lead evacuations of children after the air raids started. It also lent its Egyptian shipyards for servicing and repairing ships of all kinds and allowed ships from the East Africa war operations to use its workshops for repairing vehicles.
During World War II when the Germans occupied Brussels and Paris, Thomas Cook and Son passed into the hands of the Custodian of Enemy Property. After the war, however, the tourism trade was back in full swing. The British government arranged for the company to be purchased by several British railway companies. When the railways were nationalized in 1948, Thomas Cook also became state-owned.
In 1958, a Boeing 707 crossed the Atlantic. This not only meant the opening of a new mode of transatlantic travel, but it also meant that new, more reliable aircraft were available to tourists, who had until then been reluctant to fly. Accordingly, Thomas Cook faced a new era and increased competition. While Cook had become an institution in England, a new, younger consumer market looked to modern travel companies that could provided unique opportunities. As a state-owned agency, Cook was unable to obtain money for new ventures, such as purchasing its own airline, as some rivals did.
Thomas Cook was sold to Midland Bank in 1974. The following year, Midland Bank sold the U.S. operation to Dun & Bradstreet as a result of federal banking regulations. Under an agreement with Thomas Cook Group Ltd., Dun & Bradstreet continued to use the Cook name and remained part of a network membership agreement. In 1988, Dun & Bradstreet put the business up for sale in order to concentrate only on its traditional services of marketing, credit risk, finance, and directory information.
Publishing magnate Robert Maxwell bought Thomas Cook the next year and renewed the licensing agreement to use the Cook name. Thomas Cook Travel Inc. generated business of about $365 million. It had 60 full service locations, including nine regional reservation centers. Although industry members speculated that Maxwell would sell the company, since his main business activity was publishing, he maintained that he had big plans to make Thomas Cook a dominant force in the U.S. travel business through the acquisition of other companies.
In 1989 Thomas Cook joined forces with Crimson/Heritage Travel to form a $1.3 billion company and instantly jumped in rankings to become the third largest travel company in the United States. Maxwell and David Paresky, founder and president of Crimson Travel, each owned a 50 percent share of the new Thomas Cook Travel. Paresky became president, chairman, and chief executive officer of the newly-merged company. He relocated company headquarters to Cambridge, Massachusetts, from New York City.
When Maxwell died suddenly in 1991, his 50 percent share of Thomas Cook was eyed by many potential buyers, including Midland Bank, which had made itself eligible by selling the bank that conflicted with further U.S. operations. However, Paresky had the right of first refusal, and in 1993, he and his wife Linda, vice-chairwoman of the company, purchased the Maxwell share.
Thomas Cook Travel, the U.S. operation, had about 700 offices in 45 states and Washington, D.C. in 1993 and had become predominantly a corporate agency, handling the travel of some of the largest companies in the country. Business travel revenues accounted for 84 percent of the company’s revenues that year. The company also operated a franchise program with more than 40 locations.
Golden, Fran, “Industry Weighs Impact of Crimson/Heritage-Thomas Cook Merger,” Travel Weekly, December 28, 1989, p. 17–18.
____. “Maxwell to Buy Thomas Cook Travel,” Travel Weekly, February 16, 1989, p. 1.
____. “Thomas Cook Joins Forces with Crimson,” Travel Weekly, December 18, 1989, p. 1.
Swinglehurst, Edmund, Cook’s Tours: The Story of Popular Travel, Dorset, England: Blandford Press, 1982.
____. The Romantic Journey: The Story of Thomas Cook and Victorian Travel, New York: Harper & Row, 1974.
—Wendy J. Stein