Steering Corporate Strategy

Expedia CFO Mark Okerstrom, one of the executives on the 2012 Under 40 List, talks about putting strategic decisions into practice.

A desire to participate in corporate strategy decisions at the highest level led Mark Okerstrom first into corporate law, at London firm Freshfields; then to investment banking at UBS; then to Bain Consulting; and then to his current role as CFO and executive vice president of Expedia. The $3.5 billion online travel company was once a unit of media mogul Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, and Diller still holds sway as its chairman.

Since arriving at Expedia in 2006, Okerstrom, 39, has presided over more than 20 transactions, including last year’s divestiture of travel review and advice site TripAdvisor, as well as Expedia’s most recent acquisition, in December, of a $632 million majority stake in trivago, a German online travel company. Expedia is striving to expand its reach internationally and build its market share in travel bookings from a current 3% of the $1 trillion industry.

You’ve identified six strategic areas for Expedia to focus on going forward, including developing across geographies; expanding rapidly in the highly fragmented hotel industry; making technology platform investments; achieving success in new distribution channels; and creating powerful cash flow generation. Can you tell me about the process of identifying these areas?
We took a look at our $1 trillion travel industry, and realized we do just over $30 billion in travel bookings. We’re the largest travel company in the world, and we’ve only got 3% of the market. That’s a huge amount of opportunity in front of us.

We really thought about what it is going to take for us to win in this industry, to take 3% in market share and make it something much more significant. It really boiled down to a few things. One is that the bulk of the value in the online travel industry is in the hotel industry, because you’ve got hundreds of thousands of small hotels that can’t necessarily afford the marketing reach and the technology necessary to reach the traveler in Japan who wants to come stay in Rome. We can do that for them.

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