SFor more than a month there has been booming uncertainty in the travel group TUI. The speculations of the employees have now been confirmed: The CEO Fritz Joussen is leaving early at his own request and is using a special exit clause that he had agreed upon in connection with the corona stabilization measures. His contract would normally have run until 2025.
At the end of the financial year at the end of September, Joussen now wants to hand over the chief post to the previous CFO Sebastian Ebel. This is what the Executive Committee of the Supervisory Board, headed by Dieter Zetsche, proposes to the control committee, as the travel company announced on Friday. According to FAZ information, the supervisory board will meet next Monday.
Joussen chooses an exit time when the travel business is recovering from the low in the corona pandemic. However, TUI is suffering from a high mountain of debt, and unlike Deutsche Lufthansa, the German state’s corona aid has not been fully repaid.
Therefore, there is concern in the group that the premature departure of the boss will send an unfavorable signal to the industry and to the capital market. “The supervisory board regrets Fritz Joussen’s decision – and I personally regret it too,” Chief Supervisor Zetsche was quoted as saying. The TUI share price slipped by 3.5 percent on Friday morning.
“Starting the next phase”
Zetsche, on the other hand, said that TUI had left the difficult Corona phase behind. “The existential crisis has been overcome. We are now entering the next phase,” he said. CFO Ebel is the “excellent choice” because he was responsible for the strategic growth areas of hotels, cruises and activities for many years. Ebel worked for TUI until 2006, worked at the telecommunications group Vodafone with its then Germany boss Joussen and followed him back to TUI in 2013.
Joussen himself addressed the employees in a circular. “The decision is not easy for me,” he writes in it. However, he was convinced that now was “a right time for a change”. He describes his ten years at the top as “a very long time” – and it is “characterized by change, by growth, by our products and by our customers”. However, it can also be heard from corporate circles that the boss’s great enthusiasm at the beginning of his time at TUI has waned.
Details of the farewell clause
Regarding the exit clause that Joussen is now using, the group’s most recent annual report states that he has the right to resign from office with a period of three months to September 30, 2022. However, his contract does not end until 24 months later, during which time bonuses from the annual bonus and a long-term incentive program “are paid out and do not expire”.
Joussen had taken over the management of TUI from Michael Frenzel in 2013 – at that time “a group threatened with break-up”, as Zetsche explained on Friday. A core problem was an expansion step that had not been completed due to a lack of finances, which had led to two listed TUI companies, the Holding in Hanover and TUI Travel in London. The sub-company was worth more on the stock exchange than the entire group.
Joussen managed to merge the two TUI companies, which noticeably streamlined structures and restored confidence in the capital market. He also pushed ahead with the digitization of the business, but according to the impression of observers, he considered his task for the group to be over.