GBTA Puts CEO Scott Solombrino On Leave

The Global Business Travel Association board of directors on Saturday morning announced that it placed CEO Scott Solombrino on administrative leave.

The organization said it did so to allow for “further investigation” into the claims made in a June 8 letter describing unethical conduct and alleging racism, sexism, humiliation and verbal assaults of staff, misuse of funds and other issues.

Business Travel News published a link to the full letter, written by an anonymous author described as former and current staff, in a Friday article.

The Saturday board statement did not make reference to Solombrino’s June 7 email to staff in which he called Colorado’s governor an “asshole” and characterized layoffs as “easy cuts.” Solombrino on Wednesday apologized for that communique, saying it was hastily written.

The apology rang hollow for some industry professionals commenting on social media and on this website. It made no reference to statements Solombrino made in 2019 — cited in the Monday article that first revealed the staff email and this February article — which many interpreted as sexist.

“You don’t need legal counsel when the evidence is this overwhelming,” according to Travel and Transport’s Kerin McKinnon.

“The follow up and the ‘apology’ actually added fuel to the fire in my opinion,” wrote Jeff Daily, director of global travel at Palo Alto Networks. “There was obviously zero remorse, which highlights the real problem.”

“We have determined that further investigation is required in this matter,” according to Saturday’s GBTA press statement. “We have taken this step to affirm that this inquiry has the necessary depth, that the reviewer has sufficient time to consider and corroborate facts and statements, and to give any and all concerned parties an opportunity to come forward.”

The calls for Solombrino’s resignation are numerous. Some argue the same fate befits the board, which is made up of personnel from Altour, BCD Travel, Best Western, Boeing, Dollar General, Facebook, Freeman Co., Ingredion Inc., Johnson Downie, NetApp, Oracle, PayPal and United Airlines.

The board in April voted unanimously to promote Solombrino to CEO.

Disclosure: The Company Dime currently provides content to the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, like GBTA a corporate travel membership association, for a fee. The Company Dime is also in discussions with a private trade show organizer about its interest in launching a new expo in corporate travel. These are conflicts of interest which the reader should consider as part of their understanding of this article.

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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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Wellington CostaThe Company DimeHeather TrustyPam McTeerKelly Christner Recent comment authors
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William Newman
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William Newman

This is a good start. The board, however, should also be thoroughly investigated for enabling this alleged, appalling behavior.

Charles de Gaspe Beaubien
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Charles de Gaspe Beaubien

Thank you for leading on this reporting, which is key to our industry.

The Company Dime
Admin

That’s very kind, thank you Charles. Our thanks go also to the courageous unnamed sources. And BTN for its bold coverage.

Karoline Mayr
Subscriber
Karoline Mayr

I have watched the “implosion” of GBTA with a heavy heart for some time. Frankly, it really angers and disappoints me. I think of the countless hours I and scores of volunteers have poured into this organization, only to be failed utterly by leadership, including on a board level. My membership will not be renewed at this time. I support a new board and executive leader put in place by a transparent election process.

Kelly Christner
Subscriber
Kelly Christner

Well said Karoline! We’ve said it before, BOD members have a fiduciary duty as well as an ethical one. A good start to rebuilding GBTA would be to institute mandatory BOD education and operational training. It should cover managerial and financial oversight, as well as regulatory compliance, and should be completed after every election, regardless of prior service.

Pam McTeer
Subscriber
Pam McTeer

Karoline and Kelly – I agree. I cancelled my membership five years ago due to threats and lack of ethical decisions. I was so proud and excited when my peers voted for me to be on the board. I was quite dismayed when many of the decisions were made before the board even met. Ever wish you didn’t know what you know? Having lived it during my time on the board, I had to clean it up or walk away. Due to threats, I walked away as my integrity and reputation were not something I was willing to jeopardize.

Gaurav Sundaram
Advisor

The board is equally if not more culpable! A sad state of affairs indeed .

Wellington Costa
Guest
Wellington Costa

I’m glad someone brought this up! I’ve served GBTA Brazil for 8 years as president and regional director with full dedication and I was very disappointed and I felt humiliated the way me and the LATAM team were terminated.

Kelly Christner
Subscriber
Kelly Christner

Hi Wellington: Thank you for further illuminating the myriad ways in which this organization has mistreated and mismanaged its most valuable capital: its people. I hope you will also assist these journalists in unveiling purported financial missteps and abuses as well.

I hope you will add your experiences and observations to the growing number of ex-volunteers and employees who finally feel emboldened enough to come forward after years of silence and fear.

Heather Trusty
Subscriber
Heather Trusty

GBTA has been corrupt and sexist for years. I was shocked with the antics that went on when I worked there. I had never seen a workplace quite like it. If you recall the “Jennifer Lacey” e-mail, everything in it was true. There was a full “investigation” with that and everyone was cleared. As a staff, we were shocked that no actions came from that. So I’m not optimistic about this situation.

The Company Dime
Admin

For context… Jay Boehmer wrote about that email for BTN here and here.

Wellington Costa
Guest
Wellington Costa

Thanks, Kelly!
Unfortunately. I’ve seen our friend and LATAM leader Kevin Maguire a year before he left our world, many times depressed and sad with the situation, because he was unable to do anything in order to change it…