Priceline CEO steps down after investigation into 'personal relationship'

Darren Hutson, chief executive of travel giant Priceline Group Inc has resigned following an investigation that found he had an affair with an employee that violated the firm's code of conduct

Priceline Group Inc. said Chief Executive Darren Huston resigned after an internal investigation found that his relationship with an employee violated the company's code of conduct.

One of Huston's last deals was to sign an agreement with TripAdvisor Inc in October a year ago, allowing Booking.com customers to directly book hotel rooms on the travel review website operator.

Jeffery Boyd, former Priceline CEO and Chairman, has been appointed to the CEO post on an interim basis, and Gillian Tans, Chief Operating Officer for Booking.com, has been appointed CEO of that division.

The travel website operator said Huston, who has been the company's CEO since January 2014, had acknowledged his misconduct and expressed regret.

James M. Guyette, Lead Independent Director, said, "I am satisfied with the Board's thorough review of this issue".

'The performance of the business under Darren has been strong, and the Company is very well-positioned to continue executing on its strategy for growth. He previously served as the Company's Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary from January 2000 to October 2000.

Huston took over the reigns from Boyd in late-2013, two years after joining the company as CEO of Booking.com to replace Kees Koolen.

Shares of the company were trading down 1.2 per cent at $1,338 in premarket trading. The Board of Directors has formed a committee to search for new CEO candidates. He said Boyd is "deeply familiar" with Priceline's strategy and leadership team. The company provides services through Booking.com, priceline.com, agoda.com, KAYAK, rentalcars.com and OpenTable brands.

He also brokered a deal to land a stake in China's travel agency CTrip - a pivotal move to tap into the country's growing market.

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