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Expedia names Mark Okerstrom CEO after Khosrowshahi quit for Uber

LiveMint logoLiveMint 31-08-2017 Gerrit De Vynck

Toronto: Expedia Inc. chose finance chief Mark Okerstrom to be its new chief executive officer, quickly filling the job with a well-known internal candidate after Dara Khosrowshahi unexpectedly quit to join Uber Technologies Inc.

Okerstrom’s appointment sends a message of continuity to shareholders, who initially sent Expedia’s stock lower on reports of Khosrowshahi’s departure. Okerstrom, who has held the chief financial officer (CFO) post since 2011 and been at the company since 2006, often speaks at events on Expedia’s behalf, briefs analysts on quarterly calls and has generally been seen as Khosrowshahi’s right-hand man. Khosrowshahi will remain on Expedia’s board, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

“Prior to Dara leaving, Mark Okerstrom was his principal partner in operating the company—and therefore this transition is as natural as water flowing down a snow-packed mountain,” Expedia chairman Barry Diller said in the statement. “There was no other candidate that the board considered.”

Expedia needs a strong hand. The company is trying to fight its way deeper into the fast-growing home-rental industry while keeping the core hotel-booking business expanding in the face of competition from Priceline Group Inc.’s Booking.com and Chinese travel giant Ctrip.com International Ltd.

“Honoured to lead the world’s greatest travel and tech company through the next exciting chapter,” Okerstrom wrote on Twitter after the announcement. “I’d assume largely a continuation of the course we’ve been on,” he told reporters later on a conference call.

Okerstrom, 44, a Canadian by birth, studied law at the University of British Columbia before obtaining a master’s of business administration degree at Harvard University. He worked at UBS and Bain & Co. before joining Expedia, initially as senior vice president of corporate development.

Expedia’s growth through acquisitions was a hallmark of Khosrowshahi’s tenure, and that is unlikely to change, Okerstrom said. “M&A has always been in our DNA and it will be in our DNA in the future.”

Khosrowshahi will still have influence at the company through the board seat he’s retaining. “He happens to be a board member who’s incredibly versed in this industry,” Okerstrom said. “If I can drag him away from Uber for a few seconds I might tap him for some advice.”

The relationship with Uber’s new CEO may open opportunities for Expedia, too, Okerstrom said.

“There’s probably ways we can work much more closely together than we ever have before,” he said. “Keep your eye out, maybe there will be something that comes out.” Bloomberg

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