Thomas Cook, the most famous name in British mass-market tourism, is close to returning to European ownership as its Chinese owner holds talks to sell it to a Polish online travel agent.
Sky News has learnt that Fosun Tourism Group is in advanced negotiations to sell Thomas Cook to eSky, which is majority-owned by MCI Capital, a private equity firm focused on Central and Eastern Europe.
City sources said the talks had been under way for some time, and could result in a deal in the coming weeks, although they cautioned that the discussions could yet fall apart.
If completed, Thomas Cook would change hands for the second time since its catastrophic collapse in the autumn of 2019, when its insolvency left thousands of people jobless and many more holidaymakers needing to be repatriated from overseas vacations back to the UK by the government.
Founded in 1841, the brand became synonymous with the explosion in demand for package holidays and for years it had a presence on most British high streets.
Fosun, which is part of the same conglomerate which owns Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, the Premier League club, built a big stake in Thomas Cook while it was a listed company.
After its collapse, Fosun acquired the brand for just £11m, and subsequently relaunched Thomas Cook as an online travel agent.
A large chunk of Thomas Cook's high street operations was subsequently sold to Hays Travel, the independently owned group.
In a full-year trading update published for 2022, Fosun Tourism Group said bookings at Thomas Cook's UK operations had shown a year-on-year increase of 340%, equating to 80,000 additional holiday bookings.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook declined to comment.