Travel firm Thomas Cook has come a long way since its formation in rural Leicestershire during the early Victorian era.
Founded in Market Harborough in 1841 by businessman Thomas Cook, the fledgling company organised railway outings for members of the local temperance movement.
Some 177 years later it is a leading global travel group, with annual sales of £9bn, 19 million customers a year and 22,000 staff operating in 16 countries.
Thomas Cook has had a chequered history, including being nationalised in 1948 – when it became part of the state-owned British Railways – and owning the raucous Club 18-30 youth brand, which it recently closed after failing to find a buyer.
However, just as the travel world has progressed from temperance day trips, so the modern business and leisure market is also changing, and at a far faster pace than in previous decades.
The firm is being buffeted by a number of factors: financial, social and even meteorological.
Six months ago shares in Thomas Cook were trading at just below 150p. Now, after two profit warnings, they are worth just a fraction of that price.
Its shares had fallen by nearly 60% over the past week, to a six-year low, although there was a mini-renaissance on Wednesday following news that chairman Frank Maysman had bought 373,000 shares at 21.6p.
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