New American Express GBT CEO Doug Anderson Declines Comment On Report Of KDS Acquisition

By | August 22, 2016

[UPDATE, Aug. 30, 2016: American Express Global Business Travel today announced an agreement to acquire KDS. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter. More information here.]

Former Carlson Wagonlit Travel CEO Doug Anderson has taken the same role at American Express Global Business Travel.

According to a prepared statement, American Express Global Business Travel chairman Greg O’Hara credited Anderson with the respect of the industry, strong leadership capabilities and business travel knowledge. He said the company’s mergers and acquisitions activity “is ramping up quickly” and its “infrastructure transformation” is nearly complete.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Anderson declined to comment on a rumor, published by Deplacements Pros, that GBT is buying KDS. KDS is a partner of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which owns a small stake in the Paris-based online booking tool provider. American Express GBT has suggested it would like to own an OBT, or at least control one.

American Express Global Business Travel CEO Doug Anderson - Photo courtesy of The Rezidor Hotel Group

American Express Global Business Travel CEO Doug Anderson – Photo courtesy of The Rezidor Hotel Group

With Anderson’s appointment, interim CEO O’Hara returns to his role as chairman of the board. He filled in after Bill Glenn resigned as CEO four months ago. It was around that same time that CWT announced Anderson would be replaced by former Travelport executive Kurt Ekert.

Like Ekert, Anderson said he thinks global travel management companies could do a better job of servicing small and medium enterprises. “There’s an opportunity for whoever it is that gets there first with the best answer,” said Anderson. This would be a more standardized approach than what attracts the large market, he said.

Anderson also said there’s still room for growth among very large clients that have yet to consolidate travel programs. “I think the days of hard [policy] mandates for many companies are starting to come to an end, but the traveler convenience and efficiency available on the back of a professionally managed program — as well as the cost savings and preferred supplier concentration — create a tremendous amount of value for all constituents, not just the corporate client but the traveler as well,” he said.

Anderson said he was contacted about the opportunity at GBT less than three months ago. He received an offer a little more than a month ago. He said the turn of events wasn’t quite a shock, but he admitted to some surprise. He made respectful comments about his former firm, but said the health of GBT’s balance sheet is “a differentiator,” allowing it to invest.

CWT appointed Anderson CEO in 2008, a year after he joined the company as CFO. At that time, O’Hara was a CWT board member and said, “I can’t think of a better person for this position.”

During Anderson’s CWT tenure, the company struck a preferred supplier deal with American Express Global Commercial Card (2008), created a specialist energy, resources and marine division (2010), launched the mobile CWT To Go platform (2011), acquired WorldMate (2012) and bought TMCs in Europe and Latin America. In 2014, parent Carlson acquired full ownership by buying JP MorganChase’s minority stake.

Anderson also serves as chair of the GBTA Foundation Board Of Trustees.

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Author: Jay Campbell

Jay Campbell in 2004 created travel business newsletter The Beat, in 2006 co-founded Travel Procurement magazine and in 2010 integrated them into Northstar Travel Media's BTN Group. He served as editorial director until 2013. Jay made his travel industry media debut in 1993 at the Air Travel Journal of Boston while earning his undergraduate degree in journalism at Boston University. More on LinkedIn.