Cendant to name new travel chief

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Travel and real estate conglomerate Cendant will on Tuesday name Jeff Clarke, chief operating officer of Computer Associates, as head of its troubled travel services division.

Cendant has tapped Mr Clarke as chief executive to lead a turnround months after the owner of online travel agencies Orbitz and Ebookers cut earnings forecasts due to problems integrating new UK online businesses.

Mr Clarke’s experience with Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation is expected to help steer the travel group through a $40m technology overhaul.

His appointment comes ahead of Cendant’s plan to break up into four separate companies – travel services, hotels, car rental and real estate – this year.

While analysts are upbeat on the move, shares in Cendant have dropped more than 16 per cent since it unveiled the de-merger last October.

Cendant will also announce it will rename its travel services division Travelport. The company is trying to strengthen Travelport after late last year citing “unacceptable setbacks” and “flawed execution” of its online travel strategy due largely to overheated expectations for Ebookers.

In March it hired Gordon Bethune, former chief executive of Continental Airlines, as chairman of Travelport. Mr Bethune is credited with turning round the struggling US carrier.

Henry Silverman, chief executive of Cendant, said Travelport has moved from the acquisition phase to the execution stage.

Mr Clarke’s technology and corporate background make him “an ideal choice to lead that effort,” added Mr Silverman. “Together with Gordon Bethune’s extensive background in travel, our world-class management team is now complete.”

Prior to joining Computer Associates in 2004, Mr Clarke was chief financial officer of Compaq and led its integration with Hewlett-Packard. He began his career with Digital Equipment Corporation in 1985 before joining Compaq in 1998.

In 2004 Cendant spent $2.75bn to snap up US and UK travel websites, Orbitz, Ebookers, Gullivers Travel and Octopus over the course of just three months. It also bought Australian company Flairview Travel in 2004.

It acquired Ebookers for a bloated price of £209m ($369m) amid aggressive expansion overseas from US online travel agencies Travelocity and Expedia.

Mr Clarke’s predecessor, Sam Katz, was fired in December when Cendant forecast lower fourth-quarter earnings. And in a sharp change of plans, Mr Silverman scrapped plans to head the online travel unit after its spin-off.

Mr Silverman will instead head its real estate business, recently named Realogy, which includes property brokers Century 21 and Coldwell Banker.

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