Expedia Group hires top execs from Apple and Verizon as part of leadership structure overhaul

A view of a skybridge — with windows that actually slide open — that looks west toward Puget Sound at Expedia’s Seattle campus. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Expedia Group has hired top executives from Apple and Verizon Media as the company overhauls its leadership structure and brand after a long period of organizational disarray and declining revenues.

The Seattle travel platform announced Monday morning that Apple marketing head Jon Gieselman will join the company as president of Expedia Brands. Rathi Murthy, who most recently worked with Verizon Media’s 5G and platform technologies as CTO, will become Expedia’s new chief technology officer.

Expedia vice chairman and CEO Peter Kern said in a statement that hiring Gieselman and Murthy is part of an ongoing effort to “simplify our organization for clarity and speed,” a key mission for the travel giant as its revenues have swooned in the midst of the pandemic and its ever-increasing assortment of products have cluttered its core mission.

The key hires are part of Expedia’s efforts to streamline its operations and boost its revenues. Expedia, which now boasts a market value of $24 billion, reported revenue of $1.24 billion in the first quarter. That was down 44% compared to the same period last year.

In addition, Expedia said Monday it will reshape its operating structure into “four key pillars” — Expedia Services, Expedia Brands, Expedia Marketplace and Expedia for Business.

As part of the leadership overhaul, several key executives are leaving the company. Travel Partners Group President Cyril Ranque; President and Marketing co-lead Adam Jay; and Retail Product and Technology President Tucker Moodey “will all depart at different timeframes over the next several months,” Expedia said in a statement.

Expedia is trying to simplify its brand and streamline the organization’s overall structure after snatching up a wide array of online travel companies over the past two decades.

Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern. (Expedia Group Photo)

From 2001 until he left in 2017 to become Uber’s CEO, former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi led the travel platform through a time of astounding growth.

Khosrowshahi completed a total of 41 transactions for Expedia, valued at $12.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg in 2020.

Among the companies Expedia controls today are Travelocity, Hotwire, CheapTickets, Orbitz, HomeAway, Vrbo, Egencia and Hotels.com, to name just a few.

The expansion helped position Expedia as a dominant online travel platform and Khosrowshahi as the U.S.’s highest paid CEO in 2015. His compensation package that year included a stock award of nearly $91 million.

Still, Expedia’s many divisions have operated in silos. Customers and even the company’s employees became confused about Expedia’s operations and product offerings.

In December 2019, CEO Mark Okerstrom, who had replaced Khosrowshahi, resigned at the request of the board. So did CFO Alan Pickerill.

The departures came after disagreements with the board over how best to reorganize the company’s brands.

In February of last year, the company laid off 3,500 employees, including 500 in Seattle. A few months later, the company locked in $3.2 billion in new capital to steady its finances.

Revenues, meanwhile, have plummeted over the last year, thanks in large part to the pandemic, which devastated the travel industry.

Expedia reported earlier this month its operating income had declined 72% from nearly $1.3 billion in Q1 2020 to $369 million during the same period this year. Previous earnings reports during the pandemic have been equally disconcerting.

Last year, Barry Diller, the media mogul who chairs Expedia’s board of directors, called the company a “bloated organization” that “really lost clarity and discipline.”

“Over the years, just chasing the tail of growth and all that, we’re just adding people and people and complexity and all this stuff until, frankly very few people could figure out what the hell they were supposed to do during the day,” said Diller who, along with Kern, took control of Expedia’s daily operations in late 2019.

(Expedia Image)

Last month, Expedia announced a rebranding, offering a more clearly defined assortment of services. The company also said it’s making its largest marketing investment in five years.

The rebranding involved redesigning Expedia’s mobile app and more than 70 websites — all with the aim of making it easier to book flights, lodging, cars and activities on a central platform.

Overseeing much of those efforts will be Gieselman, who led marketing for Apple’s booming services arm, and will be charged with keeping Expedia’s services simple and straightforward for customers.

Gieselman has served on Expedia’s board of directors for the past 18 months and has been able to study Expedia’s business closely.

In a statement Monday, Gieselman said he “can see clearly the opportunity we have in front of us.”

Expedia, he said, is “perfectly positioned to bring to life new customer experiences they will absolutely love. We all miss traveling, so we’ll enjoy some natural tailwinds, but the real opportunity is to accelerate growth through meaningful innovation.”

Murthy will lead Expedia Services, which includes data and artificial intelligence, as well as e-commerce, payments and customer experience. A key part of Murthy’s mission will be bolstering Expedia’s revenue stream by making its technologies more easy to scale up and plug into the online offerings of the partners, such as Marriott.

“I look forward to leading the team driving the platformization of travel,” Murthy said in a statement.

In addition, Jon Kim, who previously served as Expedia’s president of platform and marketplaces, will now lead Expedia Marketplace. In his new role, Kim will oversee strategy, product and technology for all lines of the company’s business, including lodging, air travel, car rentals, cruises and activities.

Adriane Gorin will serve as president of Expedia’s new Expedia Business division, managing B2B relationships.

Monday’s announcements aren’t the only recent additions to Expedia’s top leadership. In April, Patricia Menendez-Cambo, who previously served as deputy general counsel to SoftBank Group International, joined Expedia’s board, replacing A. George Skip Battle, who resigned in January. Apollo Global Management Co-Lead Partner David Sambur resigned from the board last week.

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