— Sean O’Neill, on duty
Hugo Burge, a British entrepreneur, startup investor and art advocate perhaps best known as the former CEO of both Cheapflights and later the Momondo Group, has passed away. at home on Wednesday.
“A terrible and unexpected loss,” said David Soskin, who worked as a co-investor with Burge for two decades. “He was so humble about his talents, not only as a successful CEO and tech investor, but also founding an arts and crafts center at Marchmont House, his magnificent Palladian residence. in Scotland.”
In 2000, Burge co-founded Howzat Media, a firm that invests in digital businesses. An early investment was in a UK-based online travel agency Cheap flightswhen it’s a three-person operation.
Burge mentored and became the CEO of Cheapflights, helping it grow to the point where in 2011 it acquired the Denmark-based travel price comparison website Momondo. Burge became CEO of the Momondo Group which combined and used bank debt, paid for with cash flow, to form an organization with more than 350 employees. Private equity investment pumped $130 million in 2014.
In 2017, Priceline Group (now Booking Holdings) acquired Momondo Group for $550 million.
“We all quickly realized that Hugo is an excellent businessman, intelligent, empathetic, calm, analytical, mathematical and very hardworking,” he said. Martin Lumbye. who met Burge in 2009 when Burge was the CEO and principal shareholder of Cheapflights Media, when he was a partner and member of the team negotiating the merger and sale of Momondo to Cheapflights. “His background as an English gentleman embodies Hugo not only in style but also as an honest part of his personal appearance.”
Along the way, Burge played an angel and early-stage investor in major travel startups through another firm, Howzat Ventures. One of the company’s initial investments was in Trivago, which was valued at $1 billion in 2012 when the company exited and Expedia received the majority of the investment.
After the deal with Momondo Group and the payment to Trivago, Burge stepped down as CEO and left the online travel business.
In 2018, The Times of London, a typical Briton, said at the time that Burge “possibly the nation’s most qualified bachelor.” The quote seemed to hurt him.
The sale of Momondo led Burge to create a new fund, Marchmont . joint venturesupported activities with the ultimate aim of building “sustainable innovation”.
Burge and Alan Martin, formerly chief financial officer of Momondo Group, run the fund. Investments have included supporting the relaunch of the art fair in the south of Scotland.
Burge dreams of transforming House of Marchmont — a Palladian castle in Greenlaw, Scotland — into a home for creators.
In 1988, Oliver, Burge’s father, as a director of Marchmont Farms Ltd., purchased a portion of the Marchmont estate, which they later acquired together in 2007. Since 2011, Hugo Burge Together, they have led the restoration of the home and have encouraged, over the past year, the organization of arts and crafts artists and other creatives, to promote sustainability in the arts.
Burge is arguably the UK’s most famous champion in Crafts Movement.
News of Burge’s death spread on Thursday, shocking friends and former colleagues.
“We are all still in shock at the passing of our beloved Hugo,” said Alan Martinwho worked with Burge as chief financial officer at Cheapflights and Momondo and later at Marchmont Ventures, Burge’s startup investment fund.
Sarah Hanancommercial director at DoHop, who worked with Burge at Momondo Group, said: “Hugo is a true gentleman, a great leader and a friend. His persistence and vision fueled the global success of Cheapfights, and later Momondo. He created a great work culture that all the former Cheapflighters still talk about today. We will miss him terribly.
Another person grieving over Burge’s passing was Kate IrwinEMEA executive for Skift, who used to work at Momondo Group.
“He was an inspirational leader in the business and a smart, kind and caring man that I will miss very much,” Irwin said. “Sending my thoughts and prayers to his friends and family.”
“Hugo is a very special man, and has changed the lives of those fortunate enough to know him,” said. Phil Bloomfieldcommunications officer at Cheapflights and currently does so at dNata Travel Group.
“Hugo has achieved more than most in his short life,” says Lumbye. “He was one of those people who will always be remembered for his exceptional abilities and great human qualities.”
If you’re a business journalist and you’re on your way to meet or talk on the phone with Hugo Burge, no matter the circumstances, you know you’ll be talking and joking with a guy who’s always ready to sarcastic and witty commentary, and was once a shrewd businessman.
Here’s an audio clip from Burge in 2016, as part of Skift’s Definitive Oral History of Online Travel, describing Priceline’s previous failed UK launch.
Online travel veteran Krista Pappa knew Burge in the early 2000s and appreciated him as a “fire thrower,” that is, a problem solver.
“Hugo never lost his sense of humour,” Pappas said. “We had a joke that he was training to become the world’s first Olympic flame thrower. Meanwhile, his beach volleyball skills are as good as swimming.”
Pappas recalls Burge as “a wonderful human being, not only for his kindness and achievements but also for his great intelligence, infectious energy and spirit. He brings joy and laughter to everyone and his love of adventure has inspired countless others to explore the world around them. Very sad indeed.”
ONE Instagram post on Thursday from his arts organization Marchmont House said that Burge’s family requested privacy at this time. Arrangements for a memorial service have yet to be announced.
Skift’s Dennis Schaal contributed to this story.
Image credit: Hugo Burge, director of Marchmont Ventures Ltd, shown September 2020. Photo by Colin Hattersley. Source: Marchmont House Ventures.