Thomas Cook’s CEO enters Fortune’s top 50 businesswomen list, easyJet’s CEO improves position

Thomas Cook chief executive officer, Harriet Green, has entered the list of the top 50 most powerful international businesswomen, as selected by Fortune magazine.

The listing also sees easyJet chief executive, Carolyn McCall, jump up to ninth position from 35 last year. Green is placed 18th in the top 50, duly recognised for her turnaround of Europe’s second-largest travel group since joining last year.

Ms Green was appointed chief executive of the UK-based travel company in July 2012, after she cold-called the chairman and told him that she was the right person to lead the troubled group’s recovery. At that time, Thomas Cook – which is claimed to be the world’s oldest travel business – was struggling after a general fall in tourism numbers following global recession, and unrest in the Middle East. The company was also burdened with debts of more than £1bn.

Fortune said: ‘Green, 51, cold-called the group’s chairman Frank Meysman and convinced him to hire her to run the 172-year-old travel firm, after the previous chief executive left under a cloud of losses and debt.

‘The company is bouncing back just 14 months into her stint, after she undertook a complex $2.6 billion refinancing deal (which was oversubscribed), and a digital overhaul of the $15-billion-in-revenue business.

‘Since Green, a medieval history major, took over, shares have soared tenfold and market capitalisation has jumped from $243 million to $3.7 billion.’

Ms Green, who was previously chief of electronic components distributor, Premier Farnell, for six years, told The BBC last week that her first job at Thomas Cook was to boost staff confidence. ‘You need to be really working on the psychology of the business, building belief, beginning to rebuild a culture, giving people a self, a sense of renewed self-esteem,’ she said.

Meanwhile, easyJet’s Carolyn McCall marked the biggest jump on Fortune’s list, up from 35 last year to No. 9 this year. The ranking rise comes as the budget airline joined the FTSE 100 earlier this year, and paid out its first dividend to shareholders. McCall, who took charge in 2010, has profitably steered the company through challenging times, with profit rising by 13 percent in 2012 and shares up by 161 percent in the past 12 months.