Judging by her Twitter feed, Harriet Green’s spent her 'gardening leave' doing more than a bit of hedge trimming. Since leaving Thomas Cook in December she’s spent Christmas in Thailand, been snowboarding in Courchevel, taken some time out on a narrow boat and hit the beaches of Barcelona – presumably all while biding her time for a big corporate comeback.
The serenity was interrupted last week, though, when Green was dragged into the scandal engulfing her former employer over the deaths of children Bobby and Christi Shepherd on a Thomas Cook holiday back in 2006. Green wasn’t actually at Thomas Cook at the time, but recent reports have suggested she was involved in the legal fallout that ensued.
The story reared its head last week when it emerged the company had won £3.5m in compensation from the hotel responsible - 10 times the money awarded to the Shepherd family.
After a round of bungled apologies from Thomas Cook, culminating in it pledging to donate £1.5m to Unicef, attention shifted to Green when it emerged she was due a bonus of around £10m from the company next month. She attracted criticism from the childrens’ mother, Sharon Wood, who told the Mail on Sunday that Green had behaved ‘shamefully’ and should hand the bonus back or give it to children’s charities.
Last night it seemed Green had heeded the words – at least to some extent. She denied claims that she was responsible for beginning the process of seeking damages, but offered to give one third of the bonus to a charity of the family’s choice. That won't be enough penitence for some critics, but £3.3m is a hefty amount of cash for Green to give up - and significantly more than the company itself has agreed to donate.
'This terrible tragedy did not happen on my watch,’ she said. 'All of my actions were to make Thomas Cook strong so that this did not happen again. I hold my head incredibly high about the work I did to save Thomas Cook, the work I did to put health and safety at the centre of the agenda. My regret is that we didn't meet the family before the inquest and that I didn't handle the inquest.'
Thomas Cook will now be hoping it will move on from the scandal which has done it no favours at all. As for Green, MT anticipates it won’t be long before she’s back on a big board, even if this episode has knocked a few spots off of her reputation.