Priceline CEO Resigns After Relationship With Employee
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 Booking.com, the group’s largest unit. Booking.com 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 Booking.com 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.