Priceline replaced its longtime chief executive with the boss of its most profitable hotel-booking unit, ending an 11-year tenure that oversaw one of the most dramatic turnarounds of the past decade

Priceline’s Longtime CEO Hands Over Reins


Updated Nov. 7, 2013 6:51 p.m. ET Inc. PCLN -3.32% replaced its longtime chief executive with the boss of its most profitable hotel-booking unit, ending an 11-year tenure that oversaw one of the most dramatic turnarounds of the past decade. Chief Executive Jeffery Boyd, 56 years old, said he would hand the reins of the online travel company to Darren Huston, 47, a former Microsoft Corp. executive who has been running its Booking B.V. unit since 2011. Mr. Boyd will remain chairman of the company.The executive transition comes just weeks after Priceline’s share price exceeded the $1,000 mark—a redemption after the company’s spectacular collapse as the dot-com bubble burst when its share price fell to single digits, the company laid off staff and questions emerged about its future.

In the intervening decade, under Mr. Boyd’s leadership, the company best known for its name-your-own-price offers rebuilt its brand on the back of a few successful acquisitions, chief among them. Those small online travel companies focused on largely untapped hotels in Europe and Asia. Priceline helped them grow by undercutting rivals’ commissions, abandoning earlier, less profitable plans for name-your-own-price businesses in groceries and beer.

That bet helped rebuild the company into one of the world’s biggest travel websites. Online travel agents including rivals Orbitz Worldwide Inc. OWW -2.10% and Expedia Inc. have also reaped their strongest growth in recent years from new business in Europe and Asia.

Priceline’s stock surged from single-digit lows around 2002—adjusting for a reverse stock split in 2003—to more than $1,000 in September, making it the first company listed in the S&P 500 to trade above that level in the index’s 56-year history. Priceline’s shares, which are up 65% so far this year, closed Thursday down 3.3% at $1,022.89.

“After 14 years at the company, I think it’s an appropriate time,” Mr. Boyd said in an interview.

Priceline’s overall profit continued to grow at a double-digit clip in the third quarter, jumping to $833 million from $596.6 million a year ago. Revenue surged 33% to $2.27 billion, driven by more bookings in Asia.

Travel-industry observers credit the company’s hands-off management style for its successful acquisitions. In a business that depends heavily on brand loyalty—websites spend billions of dollars a year to get travelers to visit their portal first—Priceline has kept names like,, Kayak and under relatively independent leaders.

“Great autonomy has been given to the general managers and CEOs of the respective businesses,” said Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz, a well-known venture capitalist who invested early in travel brands including ITA Software, Kayak, Skyscanner and Google. “They have allowed those businesses to run for a large part as their managers see fit.”

Mr. Huston was promoted earlier this year to oversee Priceline’s international brands, a move that put him in pole position to lead the company. Mr. Huston will continue to be based in Amsterdam, where he will also continue to lead, though Priceline will keep its Norwalk, Conn., headquarters.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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