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Harsh capitalists: Thomas Cook



Christi (7) and Bobby Shepherd (6) died from carbon monoxide poisoning on a family holiday in 2006. Cleared of responsibility, Thomas Cook originally refused to apologise for the death of the children and then quietly pocketed £3m compensation from the hotel, along with their legal firm. Under pressure it has given its half to Unicef.

Imagine the children’s excitement before they went – a family holiday in Corfu. Imagine the parent’s grief and despair upon their return. The pain is impossible to imagine and the Shepherds have our profoundest sympathies.

That Thomas Cook (market cap £2.44b) has now donated its half of the compensation (the total was sum 10 times greater than the parents received) to charity without consulting the family and under huge media pressure, smacks of desperation. The legal firm should now do the same.

It does nothing to address their seemingly callous handling of the case. During the inquest Thomas Cook’s tour representative effectively took the fifth-amendment replying ‘I decline to answer that’ to many questions, thus avoiding any risk of liability for her employer. The current CEO argues that as the deaths didn’t happen on his watch he has no need to apologise.

Media attention and a sharp reversal in share price caused Thomas Cook to reverse-ferret, apologise and give away their windfall. After a sharp fall when the news broke, Thomas Cook’s share price has now recovered, but remains well below its 2007 peak.

Thomas Cook has lost its moral license to operate. We’re not sure how many of our readers would think of using Thomas Cook to book a holiday but we’d urge you not to. Let’s not go with Thomas Cook. Compassion and happiness should be at the heart of a company whose purpose is taking people on holiday.

We’d also urge the following shareholders in Thomas Cook to take a serious look at the senior management’s incompetent response to the tragic deaths and question their fitness for office. If you invest with any of these investment firms you might want to ask them how they’re using their stake to ensure more innocent children aren’t killed on holiday.

Shareholders in Thomas Cook Plc

Invesco Asset Management Ltd.


Standard Life Investments Ltd.


Guang Chang Guo, MBA


Marathon Asset Management LLP


Capital Guardian Trust Co.


BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Ltd.


Orbis Investment Management Ltd.


Legal & General Investment Management Ltd.


Norges Bank Investment Management


Allianz Global Investors GmbH



I not sure the devout Thomas Cook would be very proud of the company that bears his name.

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.