Price­line CEO Re­signs Af­ter Re­la­tion­ship With Em­ployee

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

Toronto: On­line travel gi­ant Price­line Group said CEO Dar­ren Hus­ton is re­sign­ing af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found he had a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with an em­ployee that vi­o­lated the com­pany’s code of con­duct, hand­ing the com­pany’s reins back to the for­mer CEO that led its rapid ex­pan­sion in the 2000s.

Hus­ton’s res­ig­na­tion is ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, the com­pany said in a state­ment on Thurs­day. For­mer CEO and chair­man Jef­fery Boyd, who led the com­pany from 2002 to 2013, will re­place Hus­ton as in­terim CEO while Price­line looks for a new leader. Hus­ton also re­signed as CEO of Book­, the group’s largest unit. Book­ COO Gil­lian Tans will take over as per­ma­nent CEO of that Price­line sub­sidiary.

“This res­ig­na­tion was not re­lated in any way to the com­pany’s op­er­a­tional per­for­mance or fi­nan­cial con­di­tion,” Les­lie Caf­ferty, a spokes­woman for Price­line Group, said in an email. There were no is­sues re­lated to ac­count­ing or fi­nan­cial re­port­ing ei­ther, Caf­ferty said.

Hus­ton over­saw a 30% stock in­crease at Price­line since tak­ing over from Boyd in Novem­ber 2013. Dur­ing his ten­ure he led the $2.6 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of res­tau­rant-reserva- tion ser­vice OpenTable and bought a ma­jor stake in Chi­nese on­line travel com­pany Ctrip to get a foot in the door of one of the world’s fastest­grow­ing travel mar­kets.

Boyd led Price­line through an 11-year pe­riod that saw the com­pany’s stock jump from around $10 to more than $1,000 and sur­pass ri­val Ex­pe­dia in yearly sales. He bought Book­ in 2005, which gave the firm in­ter­na­tional reach and now ac­counts for the ma­jor­ity of rev­enue.

The two CEOs have led Price­line from its ori­gins as a US flight-book­ing web­site in the early days of the In­ter­net to the world’s third-big­gest ecom­merce com­pany by mar­ket value, af­ter Ama­zon and Alibaba.

He’s not the first CEO to leave a com­pany af­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with an em­ployee. Harry Stoneci­pher re­signed as CEO of Boe­ing in March 2005 af­ter hav­ing an af­fair with a staffer in the com­pany’s gov­ern­ment re­la­tions of­fice, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd was ousted in Au­gust 2010 af­ter the com­pany found in­ac­cu­rate ex­pense re­ports filed in his name con­cealed a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with a com­pany con­trac­tor.

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