am Galeotos, the new chief executive
of Galileo, refers to the early part of his decade-long tenure at
rival Worldspan as "brutal."
It was February 1990, and the Worldspan res system was being
patched together out of Delta's Datas II and the TWA/Northwest
"The industry was changing significantly," said Galeotos, who
had left Delta to become Worldspan's vice president of sales. "We
had a different ownership base, and we were trying to merge these
two huge networks."
It could be beneficial to Galileo that Galeotos, 44, is
accustomed to challenging professional environments and fitting
corporate puzzle pieces into place.
Appointed president and CEO of Galileo last month, Galeotos said
he will try to reverse the GDS' declining market share, reposition
it to take advantage of e-commerce and leverage his career-long
experience with suppliers to bring new content to Galileo
"Competition has never been as fierce as it is now in all
aspects of the industry," said Galeotos, who also oversees the
operations of parent company Cendant's other travel distribution
"What is travel distribution going to look like 12 months from
now, 36 months from now? Our challenge is to try to figure that out
and to be there."
On a recent morning in midtown Manhattan, Galeotos sat in
Cendant's 37th floor President's conference room, with its Jerome
Myers oil painting, inlaid mahogany paneling and skybox view of
Central Park, and recounted his odyssey through the travel
You get the feeling that with his open-collared shirt, easy
laugh and regular-guy persona, he would be just as comfortable
telling his story over a beer and a shot in a neighborhood
After all, it's a long way from his native Cheyenne, Wyo., where
his "typical" Greek immigrant family owned a candy store,
restaurant and bar.
One of his grandfathers wrestled for the U.S. Olympic team in
The other -- also named Sam Galeotos -- contributed to an
entrepreneurial spirit in his young grandson when he showed him how
to "stick gum on the end of a straw and retrieve the quarters and
half-dollars" left between the seats by patrons of the family
A 1982 graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in
accounting and management information systems, Galeotos was
initially rejected for a job in Denver at Delta subsidiary
DatasLink, which produced automated accounting systems for
"So I called them up and said, 'I think you made a bad mistake
here,' " he said. He subsequently was hired by DatasLink.
From DatasLink and Delta itself, where he became systems manager
of automation sales in 1988, Galeotos moved to Worldspan at its
In the mid-1990s, he headed a Worldspan team that
"re-engineered" the company toward e-commerce.
"We were so far behind on the traditional side, we thought it
was important to get in where we thought the growth would be," said
Galeotos, who became interim co-CEO in 1999.
When Worldspan brought in former Galileo CEO Paul Blackney for
the top post in late 1999, Galeotos left for the Honolulu online
agency Cheap Tickets, moving up to CEO in early 2001. Cendant
acquired the firm eight months later.
Galeotos, who has built his career on working with suppliers
from both the GDS and retail angles, said he believes suppliers
"are abandoning great working relationships that they've had" and
may "end up finding out that they have to come back."
"What the airline community did is they went out and broke their
first rule of yield management," he said. "They went out and told
the whole world, 'Here's our lowest fare.' And on top of that, they
destroyed their corporate offerings."
Although Cendant's Trip.com and Cheap Tickets recently obtained
Continental's Web fares, Galeotos said the launch of Orbitz was
"not healthy" and was a "false start" for the airlines.
"Why does a group of airlines have to get together and basically
collude to the extent of saying, 'We agree not to give these
[lower] fares to other people?' " he asked.
Galileo, meanwhile, "will be the benefactor in the long run" of
deals being struck for Trip.com, Cheap Tickets and other Cendant
travel entities, Galeotos said.
"It's about being able to take different supplier products we
have, whether they're air, car or hotel, and putting them together
and bringing a better value package to the end consumer," he said.
"Our ultimate goal is to bring more value to the Galileo subscriber
Some of that value will be in exclusive vacation rentals from
Cendant affiliate Resort Condominiums International, as well as an
online packaging engine in development.
"There is going to be an emphasis to grow both on line and off
line," Galeotos said. "But clearly there is a shift going on from
the old world to the new world in the online space, and Galileo
needs to play in that."
Galeotos likes to play, too. He commutes to Cheyenne, where he
still lives, most weekends and enjoys bike riding and "trying to
hit golf balls."
Adept at shuttling between Wyoming, New York and Galileo's
headquarters in Parsippany, N.J., Galeotos said Galileo is on the
move, as well.
"We've got our thinking caps on, and we are going to be doing a
lot of repositioning," he said.