Orbitz Worldwide announced the resignations of its CFO and the president of its partner services group, and the global hotel business team will now report directly to CEO Barney Harford.
In aÂ Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Orbitz stated that CFO Russell Hammer, who took the post on January 1, 2011, and Mike Nelson, partner services group president since 2009, resigned May 23.
David Belmont, Orbitz group vice president of financial planning and analysis since April 2010, becomes interim CFO.
Nelson, who had been Orbitz Worldwide’s chief operating officer before Harford’s arrival in 2009, had responsibility as president of the partner services group for the global hotel business as well as airline, car rental, cruise and other supplier relationships.
Nelson will remain on the job until June 15 and has taken a top executive role at another travel company, which hasn’t been publicly disclosed.
In a twist, Orbitz stated: “Going forward the team responsible for the Company’s global hotel relationships will report into Barney Harford, Chief Executive Officer.”
Nelson previously handled both areas; his successor has not yet been named.
Harford’s taking over closer supervision of the global hotel business could be significant because growing that portion of the business has been the hallmark goal of his tenure.
In the first quarter of 2012, Orbitz Worldwide’s room night growth stood at a tepid 3%, although its ebookers’ unit was on the right track with a 33% increase in hotel room nights compared with the first quarter of 2011.
Asked whether the dual resignations of Hammer and Nelson should be interpreted as a corporate bloodletting, Chris Chiames, an Orbitz Worldwide spokesperson, says that was not the case.
“It happened to be simultaneous,” Chaimes said.
Chiames added that it’s logical that Harford would take greater control of the company’s hotel business in the reporting structure.
“For the moment, that is a natural fit given the strategic focus on growing the hotel business,” Chaimes said.
One analyst offered that Hammer may have felt the shoe industry was more suited to his skills than an online travel agency since his previous and future roles will be as CFO of shoe companies, and his Orbitz stint was only a year-and-a-half.
And, although Nelson had important duties as president of the partner services group, he may have still considered it a peg lower than his prior COO role at Orbitz Worldwide, goes the theory.
Whatever Nelson’s new position is, he is not believed to be going to a direct competitor of Orbitz.