Hays Travel paid just over £6m in total for all 555 shops sold as part of the liquidation of Thomas Cook, meaning the travel agent scooped up the lease on each store for an average of £11,000.
“These are leases that in many cases we thought were probably of little or no value and would effectively have been returned to landlords,” Dean Beale, the CEO of the Insolvency Service, told MPs on Wednesday.
“The official receiver is satisfied that this was a good deal for creditors. He has a statutory duty to ensure that he gets the best value from assets for creditors.”
KPMG, one of the accountancy firms assisting with the liquidation of Thomas Cook, said earlier this month that all of the failed travel operator’s shops had been purchased by Hays Travel, the country’s largest independent travel agent.
How much Hays Travel paid for the shops had not been disclosed until now.
“They bought 555 shops. £6m is not a lot of money,” said Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, a member of the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee.
Beale said that the length of the leases of each store varied — and that some of the stores were “relatively small”.
“The assessment of the official receiver was that this was a good deal,” Beale said.
Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel operator, collapsed into administration in September, leaving 150,000 holidaymakers stranded and putting 9,000 jobs in the UK at risk.
But the sale of the stores to Hays Travel was billed as a move that could save as many as 2,500 jobs.
“It provides re-employment opportunities for a significant number of former Thomas Cook employees, and secures the future of retail sites up and down the UK high street,” said Jim Tucker, a KPMG partner, earlier this month.
In addition to its own stores, Hays Travel runs a consortium of independent travel agents, as well as Just Go Travel, a subsidiary that primarily operates in the North West of England.
The firm was founded in 1980 in Durham, and rapidly expanded across the UK in the 1990s. In the 12 months to the end of October 2018, the company hit £1bn in revenue for the first time.