THOMAS Cook chief Peter Fankhauser told customers they could book holidays with the doomed firm “without worries” just weeks before it collapsed – after he pocketed millions in bonuses.
The Swiss boss, 58, who had been in charge since late 2014, received more than £8 million in four years, including a £2.9 million bonus in 2015.
Thomas Cook executives – who have come under growing pressure to pay back their bonuses – were handed a combined total of more than £20 million over the past five years.
Around 150,000 stranded Brits are being flown home in a rescue mission costing the taxpayer £100 million after the firm went bust on Monday morning.
Mr Fankhauser, a dad-of-three, has pocketed £8.3 million since he took over from Harriet Green in late 2014 – who had described her management style as a “landa”, a combination of a lion and panda.
The keen skier was credited with dragging the company into profitability but last Summer’s heatwave led to thousands of Brits cancelling their trips abroad.
But as the company’s profits dropped by £53 million last year, his pay rose £14,300 to £732,100 – although he did not receive his annual bonus.
In total he was awarded £4.3 million in 2015, £1.2 million in 2016, £1.7 million in 2017 and £1 million last year. He received £4.6 million in bonuses.
The 58-year-old’s most recent package included a £725,000 salary, £82,000 in benefits and £217,000 in pension contributions.
Just two months ago the Swiss millionaire, who lives in a £2 million six-bedroom Surrey mansion, had assured Thomas Cook customers they could book holidays “without worries”.
This followed an announcement the struggling firm was working to secure new investment from Fosun, a major shareholder.
He told holidaymakers: “We have enough resources to operate our business so they can enjoy their holidays with us”.
And in December he bullishly declared: “Thomas Cook is a great company and a great brand. And it is here to stay”.
Mr Fankhauser, who first joined the firm in 2001, had faced criticism for initially refusing to apologise to the parents of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, who died of carbon monoxide on a 2006 Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu.
An inquest jury concluded Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care after the children died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler.
In the wake of a public backlash Mr Fankhauser later said sorry and admitted Thomas Cook had “failed to show compassion”.
He said he regretted saying the company had done “nothing wrong” when giving evidence at the 2015 inquest.
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Up to a million Thomas Cook customers have seen their holidays thrown into chaos by the collapse of the 178-year-old firm. Many are unlikely to receive compensation.
The company’s 21,000 employees, including 9,000 in the UK, have been made redundant.
Around 135,000 Brits are still waiting to be rescued and brought back to the UK.
Mr Fankhauser, who owns a flat in the Swiss Alps and Majorca, said his company had “worked exhaustively” to salvage a rescue package.
He said: “I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption.
“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.”
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Boris Johnson criticised the directors of the company for paying themselves large sums before the 178-year-old tour company went “down the tubes”.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom called for an urgent probe into Thomas Cook chiefs and how the firm came to be liquidated.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “They have a moral responsibility to return their bonuses.
“They created this mess and there are large numbers of people losing their jobs. [Bosses] should hand the money back to compensate those workers.”
Peter Kyle, a Labour member of the business select committee, said: “It’s another collapse which shines light on the role of accounting and corporate greed.
“It brings shame to a private sector where the vast majority of people work hard and play by the rules.”
Angry passengers hit out at Thomas Cook fat cat bosses.
Tom Patrick, 69, from Cookstown, Northern Ireland, who was on holiday with his wife Valerie, said: “They ripped the company apart but they’ll be home and dry while their employees suffer and thousands of holidays are ruined.
“They shouldn’t get a penny of a performance-related bonus, by definition. You can’t reward failure on this scale with millions of pounds, it’s ridiculous.”
At Gatwick Airport, Steve Tarren, 51, of Gloucestershire, said: “The fat cats are to blame. They were still taking money right up until the time of the collapse.”
Peter Fankhauser took the top job at Thomas Cook five years ago[/caption]