Amex, Private-Equity Investors Intend To Create Business Travel Joint Venture

American Express and an investor group represented by Certares intend to move American Express Global Business Travel into a joint venture structure that would continue using the American Express brand. Amex would retain 50 percent ownership and investors represented by Certares would commit between $700 million and $1 billion for the other 50 percent.

American Express Global Business Travel president Kim Goodman told The Beat that the exact investment by Certares likely would be determined by the first quarter of 2014 when the deal is expected to be signed. The transaction could be completed in the second quarter.

Certares is led by veteran travel industry executive Michael G. "Greg" O'Hara.

Sources said he organized investors and drove the deal but probably would not lead the new American Express Global Business Travel organization once the transaction is concluded.

Goodman will continue to serve as president of the global travel management company at least through the close of the transaction. She emphasized that her management team will remain in place.

She also said the deal would allow the travel management company to accelerate its "evolution further and faster along its strategic path to provide new products, services and capabilities."

American Express would have significant board representation in the new joint venture and also would maintain strong links on the card side. For the TMC, the deal brings additional funding for growth and investment and the opportunity to reinvent itself.

O'Hara, who also is co-chairman of Travel Leaders Group, previously was managing director of One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan. He joined OEP in 2006 as a partner and was responsible for investment activities.

After leaving OEP, O'Hara founded his own venture, Certares International Bank LLC, of which he is the chairman and CEO.