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By Josie Ensor. Senior sources suggested it could take up to two weeks to bring all Thomas Cook customers home if the company goes under. Debt-fuelled expansion and a series of poor bets on where Britons would want to travel and how many people would book flights has left its finances in crisis. The company is locked in desperate negotiations with its lenders, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank, over a salvage deal.
In July, bosses announced they were hammering out a rescue deal with Chinese company Fosun, Thomas Cook's largest shareholder, and a group of hedge funds which owned its bonds. But a group of banks who lend to Thomas Cook, including RBS, are apparently threatening to scupper the rescue deal. This could happen as early as Sunday, the Mail understands, and the company has lined up administrators from Alix Partners to step in. Last night, reports of the company's troubles saw Thomas Cook bombarded by messages on social media from customers worried about their holiday plans.
Gavin Wilson wrote on Twitter: 'What are the chances of my return flights to Vegas next month going ahead? Are Thomas Cook gonna be saved or are they about to go under? But an industry source said last night: 'Unless the management team can point to a viable transaction soon, they have a clear legal duty to cease trading. If Thomas Cook does fail, the taxpayer will be left with a huge bill. Thomas Cook package holidays are protected by the Atol scheme, which means customers are supposed to be brought home free of personal cost and refunded for any holidays which don't go ahead.
However, customers who bought only flights through Thomas Cook would not be protected under the scheme. A couple look at holiday offers in the window of a Thomas Cook branch in Redcar. Tens of thousands of customers could be left stranded abroad if the firm goes bust. The Mail understands this would leave the Department for Transport having to scratch around for the remainder.
Last night, RBS denied that it was responsible for putting pressure on the deal.
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A spokesman said: 'We don't recognise this characterisation of events. As one of a number of lenders, RBS has provided considerable support to Thomas Cook over many years and continues to work with all parties in order to try and find a resolution to the funding and liquidity shortfall at Thomas Cook. The failure of Thomas Cook would be a huge blow to Britain's travel industry. It served 22 million customers last year, operates more than high street stores and employs 22, staff. If the rescue deal does go ahead, Thomas Cook will split into two parts — an airline business and a tour operator.
Guy Anker, of the Moneysavingexpert consumer website, said: 'This is extremely worrying news for hundreds of thousands of people who have booked holidays with Thomas Cook, particularly those who are abroad already. Thomas Cook declined to comment last night. A Department for Transport spokesman said: 'We do not speculate on the financial situation of individual businesses. Named after its founder, a Victorian cabinet maker, the firm is now years old. Cook's first trip, on July 5, , involved chartering a train to take Temperance supporters 12 miles from Leicester to a meeting in Loughborough.
Cook, a supporter of the movement which campaigned against alcohol, charged travellers a shilling per head. His idea to run tours had come almost a month earlier when he was walking from his home in Market Harborough to Leicester for a Temperance meeting. Cook later recalled: 'The thought suddenly flashed across my mind as to the practicability of employing the great powers of railways and locomotion for the furtherance of this social reform. Victorian cabinet maker Thomas Cook pictured founded the holiday firm in A pair of vintage advertising posters for Thomas Cook, offering holidays in Britain and abroad.
His early trips involved rail journeys in the Midlands for local temperance societies and Sunday schools.
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Commercial tours began in , with a trip to Liverpool, and expanded to organising transport from Yorkshire and the Midlands to the Great Exhibition of at Crystal Palace. The visionary businessman went international in , organising trips to Europe and then North America, along with the launch of a 'circular note' - a precursor to traveller's cheques - which could be cashed for local currency.
In Egypt, a fleet of steam ships were launched to take tourists along the Nile, and also used to convey British troops as part of attempts to break the siege of Khartoum, in Sudan, in If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.
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