American Express buying some Cook travel offices

September 10, 1994|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Moving to expand its share of the worldwide travel business greatly, American Express Co. will announce Monday that it has agreed to acquire large chunks of the #F Thomas Cook Group, people close to American Express said yesterday.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but people with knowledge of the negotiations said the purchase price was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

American Express will purchase Thomas Cook's travel offices in the United States, currently under license to David and Linda Paresky, as well as the international corporate travel accounts of the Thomas Cook Group Ltd. in Britain. The two transactions were reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, following trade reports.

By adding Thomas Cook's American operations to its own, American Express would sharply increase its share of the U.S. market. And the purchase of Cook's international corporate business would be the latest in a series of foreign acquisitions American Express has made in the last two years.

According to Travel Weekly, an industry publication, combining U.S. operations of American Express, the largest travel agency in the country, with Thomas Cook, which is third, would create a travel industry giant with gross annual sales of more than $10 billion, more than three times as large as the Carlson Travel Network, the nation's second-largest travel agency. American Express has 1,700 offices worldwide.

American Express shares were unchanged at $30.25 yesterday in heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

No one would officially acknowledge yesterday that a deal had been completed. Nancy Muller, an American Express spokeswoman, said, "These rumors have been out for a very long time in the trade press, and it is American Express' policy not to comment on rumors."

A telephone call to the Pareskys at Thomas Cook's offices in Boston was not returned.

Thomas Cook Ltd. was acquired by Westdeutsche Landesbank of Germany in 1992. Mr. and Mrs. Paresky acquired the lease on Thomas Cook's 385 American travel offices in 1992 from the estate of Robert Maxwell.

The addition of Thomas Cook's corporate business comes in the wake of purchases by American Express in Australia in the spring, when it bought two agencies, and last year of Sweden's Nyman & Schultz, one of Europe's largest travel agencies.

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