Robbie Cooke at No Vacancy 2012

Robbie Cooke at No Vacancy 2012

Now the dust is beginning to settle on the resignation of Wotif.com CEO Robbie Cooke, attention is shifting to the legacy he will leave after seven years at the helm of Australia’s largest Online Travel Agent, a company that is struggling for growth.

J.P. Morgan analyst Armina Soemino said: “In terms of Robbie, we believe the market had mixed views. He can be credited with growing the company successfully from FY06 to FY12 – 23.3% compound annual growth rate in net profit after tax over that period.

“But the market was becoming sceptical on his ability to meet the challenges of maintaining market share in the face of foreign entrant competition (Expedia, Priceline.com, etc.) and his decision-making and execution on the acquisitions of Asia Web Direct and Travel.com.”

Wotif.com is having major issues in Asia, where it acquired the Asia Web Direct business for $34m in February, 2008, beating out other suitors including Expedia.

Revenue from Asia for Wotif peaked in the 08/09 financial year at A$15.525m and has been falling ever since with the sharpest falls being recorded in the 12 months to June 30, 2012 when it fell -13.7% to $11.781m.

Mr Cooke is leaving Wotif.com at the end of this year to head up Australian gambling group Tatts Group where he will succeed Dick McIlwain – who is the chairman of Wotif – in the CEO role. Coincidence, no?

There is no ready successor at the company, which was tightly managed by Mr Cooke, most decisions big and small went through him, creating uncertainty in financial markets with the shares falling 5% yesterday.

Ms Soemino estimated Mr Cooke would earn $2.8m in his first year at Tatts compared with to a total remuneration package of ~A$1.7m at Wotif.com this financial year.

“We are Neutral Wotif.com and prefer Flight Centre in the travel space.”

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