Liquidators of Thomas Cook have rebuffed an approach from rival TUI to acquire some of its intellectual property assets as they try to finalise a sale of the 178 year-old brand.
Sky News has learnt that TUI, the travel giant which bought the Thomson Travel business in 2000, made an offer to buy Thomas Cook’s internet domain name.
TUI is said to have been interested in owning Thomas Cook’s URL because of long-standing confusion among customers between the collapsed tour operator and Thomson, which was subsumed within the TUI brand two years ago.
Sources close to the process said that AlixPartners, the joint liquidator working alongside KPMG, had rejected TUI’s interest on the basis that the travel company did not want to own the Thomas Cook brand outright.
Dozens of expressions of interest are said to have been lodged to buy Thomas Cook’s name, with the leading contenders including Fosun Tourism Group, its China-based joint venture partner.
A deal is expected to be wrapped up by AlixPartners within weeks, amid continuing recriminations about the collapse of Britain’s oldest tour operator last month.
Advisers are progressing the sell-off of Thomas Cook assets, announcing on Wednesday the sale of its Nordic operations to a consortium that included the London-based private equity firm TDR Capital.
In addition to the Thomas Cook brand, Fosun wants to buy the British company’s stake in their Chinese hotels joint venture.
KPMG is overseeing a separate auction of Thomas Cook’s take-off and landing slots, and earlier this month sold its 555 high street shops to privately owned Hays Travel for just £6m.
In recent weeks, Thomas Cook’s former bosses and auditors have been challenged by MPs investigating the company’s collapse.
Peter Fankhauser, who ran Thomas Cook for five years, expressed deep regret for the board’s inability to finalise a £1.1bn rescue deal, while his predecessor, Harriet Green, insisted that the business may have survived if she had not been ousted in 2014.
The government has faced criticism for refusing to underwrite part of the rescue package after rejecting a last-ditch request for a £200m loan.
Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, told MPs this month that providing that funding would have done little to safeguard Thomas Cook’s long-term survival.
TUI declined to comment.
(c) Sky News 2019: Thomas Cook liquidator fails to click on TUI offer