With Support Wilting, Solombrino Apologizes And GBTA Board Hires Trusted Legal Partner To Investigate New Allegations

Readers, please note our Disclosure about conflicts of interest at the bottom of this article.

The GBTA board of directors asked law firm Polsinelli to review a host of allegations made by current and former staff members against its leadership. Previously undisclosed, the investigation and related claims pile on to what was already a bad week for the corporate travel profession's leading membership association. Members and sponsors are up in arms over Monday's revelation of a strange and abrasive communication from GBTA CEO Scott Solombrino to his staff, among other insights into his . . .

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Jay Campbell

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 with Business Travel News. 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.

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Holly Hegeman
Subscriber
Holly Hegeman

Outside investigation. Right. He needs to resign. This email was merely the tip of the iceberg and everyone knows it. Can we also have an “independent” investigation as to why he is in the position in the first place? Vendors — demand that your money you have put down for the conference be returned. Now. There is not going to be a conference. Even if somehow there is one, it won’t be worth the money you have paid. Other industry conferences are having to do the same thing. The monies need to be returned. The conference pushed into 2021. Board… Read more »

Shani DeSantis
Subscriber
Shani DeSantis

Sad day for the association and its members.

Ken Lucci
Subscriber
Ken Lucci

An encouraging day if needed changes are made. Positive change cleanses and clarifies.

No one who knew his past business practices in the transportation sector are surprised by this. Many were shocked when he was “appointed” as president of the GBTA in the first place.

Kerin McKinnon
Subscriber
Kerin McKinnon

“To anyone offended” says it all. That’s a classic narcissistic apology. Not one bit surprised though. You don’t need legal counsel when the evidence is this overwhelming. Please, GBTA board members, do what’s right not what’s easy. Integrity matters to all of us in this industry.

Jeff Daily
Subscriber
Jeff Daily

Amen

Claire Langford
Subscriber
Claire Langford

Agreed. Now that he has admitted to writing that email, the only course is to remove him from office. Integrity, transparency and inclusion are qualities that are frankly, the price of admission for any leader. Without these present at the helm of GBTA, sustained success is not possible for the organization. I would be highly in favor of a buyer taking over, and know many very qualified candidates doing amazing things in our industry. Let’s not fold up GBTA, but make it the organization we joined for, and can be proud of again.

David Bishop
Subscriber
David Bishop

Kerin, totally agree … “to anyone offended” is up there with people who say “with respect” before disrespecting! I haven’t been as tuned into this story and the background to the CEO, but watching the link from the limo convention in 2019 is just shock and awe. The language, the attitude, the volte-face has no place in our society, particularly from someone with leadership responsibility.

Cindy Heston
Subscriber
Cindy Heston

As travel buyers in this incredible industry, we have to ask ourselves: Is GBTA an organization I want my reputation or my company name attached to? If your CEO or board knew about GBTA’s abhorrent (alleged) behavior, would they support their company dollars being paid to GBTA? If you can say yes, then that is unfortunate for you and your company culture. If your answer is no, then how can you continue your membership another day? Buyers: CANCEL YOUR MEMBERSHIP! It’s really that simple; no one has to step down, the board doesn’t have to take any action whatsoever. We,… Read more »

Michelle De Costa
Subscriber
Michelle De Costa

This is exactly what I told my team. We align ourselves with organizations that share our company values and with that guidance we simply cannot continue to be members of GBTA.

Kerin McKinnon
Subscriber
Kerin McKinnon

Amen

Diana Edens
Subscriber
Diana Edens

Well said, Cindy.

Kathy Burdge
Subscriber
Kathy Burdge

I couldn’t have said it better, Cindy. Buyers have a choice, and we should all spend company money like your own. Ensure your memberships align with your own personal values along with that of your company.

Gavin Smith
Subscriber
Gavin Smith

100% agree and the stance that SAP Concur has taken, is quick and decisive.. Others need to make their business aware of the goings on and cancel their membership.. The industry will determine the fate of GBTA!!

Torsten Kriedt
Subscriber
Torsten Kriedt

The exposed remarks and alleged behaviour are concerning. This means the board needs to act based on outside counsel to follow the proper path but fast. I would urge everyone to not see this as a reflection of the great work GBTA and its partner associations has been doing across the globe and all the fantastic staff and volunteers. Please don’t cancel your membership as now is the time to stand together. But, yes, let’s hold the management and the board to account and ensure GBTA continues to stand for the purpose and values of the global business travel industry.

Bernd Schulz
Guest
Bernd Schulz

Fully agree with you Torsten. Change in Management and maybe even BOD is needed – fast and based on facts found. Leaving GBTA because of misbehaviour of individuals is not an option. It will only be if there are no consequences and the ethics are therefore accepted, sanctioned and the new standard. I would feel sad and sorry without this great association and the many great people supporting it.

Cindy Heston
Subscriber
Cindy Heston

Bernd and Torsten, please read Pam McTeer’s (past GBTA board member) post below. What is happening at GBTA is not “new” and we are all aware of past indiscretions. Pam notes 20 years; isn’t that enough time for them to resolve their issues? Instead they implement bylaws that remove the members from knowing what is going on inside the organization. I do not take lightly recommending for members to cancel their membership. How can we in good conscience sit back and continue to “blame” the board, and “blame” the suppliers who contribute the funds, and “wait” for the law firm… Read more »

Paul Tilstone
Advisor

Torsten…a very well made point. I hope we all see that the sentiment isn’t a reflection on individual volunteers, chapters and partners. But I think people’s statements about cancelling their membership are a reflection of whether they believe that the leadership will hear them and truly wish to change things. Let’s see.

Gerri Lashley
Guest
Gerri Lashley

Thanks for your words of wisdom. Was on the verge of cancelling my membership but you are correct. I will wait and remember there are a lot of good individuals in GBTA who will need support to bring forth the needed changes.

Pam McTeer
Guest
Pam McTeer

Way overdue! The amount of buyers, suppliers and board members he has threatened is a list that goes back over 20 years. Lies, deception and controlling behavior is an embarrassment to the membership who have given unselfishly to the betterment of the industry. Save the money and remove him from the organization.

Kerin McKinnon
Subscriber
Kerin McKinnon

Amen!

Kerin McKinnon
Subscriber
Kerin McKinnon

Thank you for being brave enough to speak out

Jeff Daily
Subscriber
Jeff Daily

The follow up and the “apology” actually added fuel to the fire in my opinion. There was obviously zero remorse which highlights the real problem. Every member should be embarrassed and ashamed to be part of what once was a more relevant organization. The memberships from my team are done, and I cannot in good conscience continue with the group I am part of, not as long as the board stands behind the action calling it “unsubstantiated”.

Ken Lucci
Subscriber
Ken Lucci

One must have a conscience to feel remorseful.

Gavin Smith
Subscriber
Gavin Smith

I wonder how ITM will respond to this? As they are affiliated with GBTA and by default all members of ITM are members of GBTA. It is interesting how quiet the response has been from anyone in the UK. As said below, the industry will determine the fate of GBTA. Pretty much every brand we know pays membership fees, if they condone what has been said and alleged, it will say a lot about the business. I also wonder how many of those who are unhappy, have shown this to their SLT? The fall out could be larger than just… Read more »

David Bishop
Subscriber
David Bishop

Gavin, I’m more likely to see a unicorn flying over my house than seeing anything substantive from ITM leadership.

Martin Ferguson
Subscriber
Martin Ferguson

I don’t recognise your name but I’m curious to know how and why you’ve arrived at this conclusion. Are you a member? Or a sponsor? What’s your experience with the ITM leadership? Thanks, Martin F, GBT.

Emma Jones
Guest
Emma Jones

Like Martin Ferguson, I would be interested to understand why you believe this.

Suzanne Boyan
Subscriber
Suzanne Boyan

To Cindy’s point, money talks. The travel industry has a responsibility to take a stand against immoral and unethical behavior. Moreover, travel buyers have every right to ask our suppliers to respond. I’ve sent an email to a few of our preferred suppliers letting them know we’re officially not attending GBTAs convention and we expect a response from them to denounce sexism, racism and any xenophobic behavior… which is honestly the bare minimum of being a decent human.

Alexander Olsen
Subscriber
Alexander Olsen

Well said Suz! Thanks for reaching out and putting suppliers feet to the fire. I am shocked that no major supplier has come out strongly against the email and actions that have been alleged.

Steve Sedgwick
Subscriber
Steve Sedgwick

Scott – I was in your court until recently when it was obvious to me you’re not really interested in helping members; rather, protecting your cushy seven-figure salary. Discrimination comes in all shapes, colors and walks of life. Taking a shot at women was a pretty low blow.

Ken Lucci
Subscriber
Ken Lucci

The GBTA deserves much better in a leader, especially during these turbulent times. A leader inspires, encourages, motivates and sets a positive direction.

A despot insults, bullies and threatens. REMOVE and RESET.

Jeroen van Velzen
Subscriber
Jeroen van Velzen

I really feel sorry for the people who actually have to work with or for this man and the lemmings surrounding him. I don’t understand why an industry that is characterized by so many warm-hearted people got themselves a cold-hearted leader. They say you get the leaders you deserve. To me that probably means a lot of people have been silent or silenced for too long. Out of fear. Do not fight fear with fear. Speak up! Stop hiring lawyers, and start hiring new leaders. This is a rotten culture. Cure it with love. For the love of the industry,… Read more »

Wendy Stachowiak
Subscriber
Wendy Stachowiak

This is my 45th year in the travel industry. I am extremely proud to work for an organization that lives its values of passion, expertise, respect and care every minute of every day. I am truly saddened that GBTA staff have been subjected to a lack of respect and care. They deserve both, and so do the men and women of our great and diverse global industry. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments shared. I have worked with many smart, compassionate and giving people during the past 45 years, most notable the wonderful Hal Rosenbluth who taught me important lessons… Read more »

Debbie McKay
Subscriber

Wendy, Well said! I nominate you to lead the change!

Susan McKernan
Subscriber
Susan McKernan

Wendy – As always you a voice of reason filled with passion and intelligence. I am in and willing to help be part of the solution.

Gerri Lashley, St. Louis BTA
Guest
Gerri Lashley, St. Louis BTA

I seriously hope there is an independent and objective investigation, not only on Scott but on the board of directors as well. I was concerned there was not a search for the replacement of Mike McCormick and then the board unanimously gives Scott the title of CEO? If I remember correctly, the position is a paid employee that reports to the BOD. Do not stop with just him. Clean house and bring in individuals who have the best interest and are the best representatives of the entire travel industry … both buyers and vendors. The position should revert back to… Read more »

Kristen Carroll
Guest
Kristen Carroll

“You know, that is one of the consequences of the weak sense of responsibility of the press. The press does not feel responsibility for its judgments. It makes judgments and attaches labels with the greatest of ease. Mediocre journalists simply make headlines of their conclusions, which suddenly become generally accepted.”
― Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Warning to the West

Kelly Christner
Subscriber
Kelly Christner

Hello Kristen: I’m puzzled by your excerption of Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s famous (or infamous as some had interpreted it) address to a graduating class at Harvard in the late 1970’s. Mr. Solzhenitsyn addressed these misinterpretations and misuse of his speech in the autumn of 1978, shortly after the Harvard address from which you quote. In his memoirs, Mr. Solzhenitsyn recounts “I must say I was quite taken aback by the connection (or rather the lack thereof) between the criticism and the actual content of my speech.” I will not muddy the waters with too many details, the entirety of the speech… Read more »

Isaac Hernandez
Guest
Isaac Hernandez

The whole cancel culture is really taking a sad turn these days. Why is there so much hate in this world and more importantly; the people who call for his ousting or membership cancellations. Ask yourself this very important question: What have you done for our industry? This is a hit job if ever I did see one. He is one of the most sincere straight forward shooters with an endless deep well of knowledge and courage. In our industry, I know of no one else that can truly match up both in years of experience and accomplishments. More importantly… Read more »

William Newman
Guest
William Newman

Glad to see you still have internet access, Scott.