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Hays Travel Buys Thomas Cook Stores, Saving Thousands of Jobs

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Hays Travel Buys Thomas Cook Stores, Saving Thousands of Jobs

LONDON — Hays Travel, an independent British travel agent, said on Wednesday that it had bought all 555 stores of Thomas Cook, one of the world’s oldest tour companies, which collapsed last month.

More than 25 percent of all former Thomas Cook retail employees who have been hired as a result of the deal, which is expected to save up to 2,500 jobs, Hays said in a statement. The move will come as a major relief to many who found themselves unemployed overnight after Thomas Cook’s disintegration.

“Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand and a pillar of the U.K. and the global travel industry,” Irene Hays, the chairwoman of Hays Travel Group, said in the statement. “We will build on the good things Thomas Cook had — not least its people — and that will put us in even better stead for the future.”

The company said it would add the former Thomas Cook locations to the 190 stores that Hays already owns across Britain.

Hays said that in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Thomas Cook, which left about 150,000 travelers from Britain in limbo, it had offered jobs to more than 600 of the defunct company’s employees.

John Hays, Hays’ managing director, said the acquisition was a leap forward for his company. “It is a game changer for us,” he said, “almost trebling the number of shops we have and doubling our work force — and for the industry, which will get to keep some of its most talented people.”

Thomas Cook was placed in compulsory liquidation on Sept. 23, with some of its flights still in the air at the time the company announced that it was closing.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority arranged dozens of flights to get people home from far-flung destinations, with the last of those flights arriving in Britain on Monday, according to local news media reports. The authority said on Wednesday that just under 150,000 passengers had been repatriated.

As of Tuesday morning, about 100,000 claims for refunds had been filed, the aviation authority said, in what is already the British travel industry’s largest ever refund program.

The abrupt closure of a signature travel company has raised questions over the cause of its demise, with some speculating that bad management was to blame and others attributing the downfall to Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

When Thomas Cook reported in May that it had suffered a loss of 1.5 billion pounds, about $1.9 billion, for the first half of the year, the company cited a European heat wave the previous summer that had “reduced customer demand for winter sun.”

And its chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, pointed to uncertainties over Brexit, writing that “there is now little doubt that the Brexit process has led many U.K. customers to delay their holiday plans for this summer.”

But others say Thomas Cook’s demise was years in the making as it struggled to navigate the transition to the digital age. In the end, it was carrying $2.1 billion of debt, according to the company.

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