Rollercoaster ride for lastminute

The proposed takeover of online travel group lastminute.com marks another stage in a tumultuous roller-coaster ride for the company and its founders, Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman.

The proposed takeover of online travel group lastminute.com marks another stage in a tumultuous roller-coaster ride for the company and its founders, Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman.

Both are set to pick up multi-million pound windfalls following the sale to US-based Sabre Holdings for £577m (€843.6).

Mr Hoberman, who will remain at the helm of the combined lastminute.com and Travelocity Europe business, said this is not “the end of the journey” for the company, which came to symbolise the rise and fall of the dot.com era.

Following an initial market capitalisation of £800m (€1.2bn) in 2000, the firm went from internet success story to near collapse in just two years.

But it battled and survived the boom and bust.

When Mr Hoberman first approached Ms Lane Fox with the idea for an online travel company she initially turned him down.

But she changed her mind and the pair, who met while working at internet consultancy Spectrum Strategy, set up lastminute.com in April 1998.

Ms Lane Fox, who stepped down from the day-to-day running of the company in November 2003, is today on the road to recovery following a serious car crash in Morocco last May.

The 31-year-old, who became the the pin-up of the technology age at the peak of lastminute.com’s success, quit her post as group managing director, saying she wished to “explore other challenges".

She is still a non-executive director.

Her blonde hair, wholesome good looks and tender age had previously ensured that it was she and not Mr Hoberman who drew the media attention.

In 2000, Ms Lane Fox boasted a reported paper fortune of £40m (€58.5m) but after the company’s share price crash that was cut to a modest £9m (€13.2m).

Her stake of 8.2 million shares is today worth about £13.5m (€19.7m).

The daughter of distinguished writer Robin Lane Fox, who became an Oxford don at 24, Ms Lane Fox was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University.

She always hinted that her private life had been sacrificed on the altar of lastminute.com’s rise.

At the time of the business’s 2000 floatation she admitted to working days that finished at 2am and said in one interview: “It isn’t even possible to have a life.”

She was thought to have been courted by department store group Selfridges just weeks after deciding to step down from her role at lastminute.com but later opted to take a career break.

But she spent several months in hospital last year after suffering six fractures to her pelvis, shoulder and neck in the crash in the coastal tourist town of Essaouira and is said to be considering her plans for the future.

Mr Hoberman, 36, who will stay on as chief executive, is set to receive just over £26m (€38m) for his 15.8 million shares.

Before setting up the company, Mr Hoberman was a founding member, and head of business development, at online auction house QXL. He also worked in business development at website hosting service LineOne.

Prior to that he spent five years consulting at Mars & Co and Spectrum Strategy Consultants, where he specialised in media and telecoms.

He said he viewed today’s deal as part of the development of the business.

He added: “It is too easy to write this up as an end of a journey. It takes 10 years to build a company and we are only at year-seven and I am sure you will see this business continue to perform.

“My role will be to build out the vision I set out on a piece of paper seven years ago. It was a partnership then, and it’s a partnership now but with different people.”

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