For Barry Liben, relinquishing the title of CEO of Travel Leaders Group to Ninan Chacko, former CEO of PR Newswire, last week opened the way to return his attention to Tzell Travel Group, Liben's self-professed home and the company he grew from three employees in 1977 to a staff of more than 700 today.
Liben was named CEO of Travel Leaders Group when the company merged with Tzell in 2008. Under the management changes announced Sept. 9, Liben will remain on the Travel Leaders Group board, which Chacko will join.
"It has been a true honor and privilege to serve as Travel Leaders Group's CEO," Liben wrote in a message to Tzell employees. "I'm very proud of the legacy I'm leaving behind, because it's a shared one with Tzell. … After very thoughtful consideration, particularly during the last few months when I've been reminded on a daily basis just how much I loved returning to my roots here at Tzell, where I first began in 1977, I've decided to step away from my role as CEO for all of Travel Leaders Group and instead devote my energies and attention exclusively to Tzell as your CEO. It's good to be home."
Before his time at PR Newswire, Chacko was the chief commercial officer at Worldspan, responsible for sales, marketing, operations, service and support for customers like Tzell, Travel Leaders Corporate and Travel Leaders Franchise Group. He was on the management team that acquired Worldspan from Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines and American Airlines. Before Worldspan, he spent over 13 years with Sabre Holdings in a variety of roles.
"After watching the spectacular rise of Travel Leaders Group, it is a distinct honor to take the reins from Barry Liben, whose leadership we salute today," Chacko said. "I look forward to working with Travel Leaders Group's extraordinary team in writing the next chapter for this organization."
Michael Batt, founder and chairman of Travel Leaders Group, said Chacko's "unique experience and knowledge will prove invaluable in driving further success for all the companies within our group."
Batt also thanked Liben for his years at the helm of the mother ship.
"Under Barry's leadership all our brands have flourished and grown in the United States and the United Kingdom, and in addition we have also expanded into Australia, Canada, Greece and Ireland," he said. "Barry and I will continue to serve on the board of Travel Leaders Group, along with Ninan, in helping him and the rest of the board take the company to the next level."
About 30% of all travel agencies in North America today fall under the umbrella of Travel Leaders Group, which has grown to be a $20 billion company that ranked 11th in the 2015 Travel Weekly Power List.