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Expedia CFO Mark Okerstrom is taking the helm as CEO after Dara Khosrowshahi departs (GeekWire Photo)

Updated 2:20 p.m.: Mark Okerstrom confirmed in an email to employees that he is taking over as CEO and president of Expedia, dispelling rumors that he might follow Dara Khosrowshahi to Uber.

“Assume largely a continuation of the strategic course we have been on,” Okerstrom said in an internal email to employees obtained by GeekWire. “I have been intimately involved in shaping the strategic and financial direction of the company for the past 11 years, so I actually do not have a long list of ‘Things to do completely differently when Dara leaves’ burning a hole in my pocket.”

Expedia announced Okerstrom’s new role and revealed Khosrowshahi will remain on the company’s board of directors in a press release Wednesday. Okerstrom will also be joining the board as part of his new gig. Expedia Chairman Barry Diller said “there was no other candidate considered other than Mark,” in an email to employees.

“Mark has been by my side through every major milestone in this company for much of the last 11 years and I’m passing these reins into the best hands,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “He is a tireless, strategic, and steadfast leader who has pushed me to be my best self while having Expedia, Inc.’s best interests front and center at every step. I am incredibly excited to watch Expedia continue to flourish with his leadership.”

News broke this week that Khosrowshahi will take the helm as CEO of Uber after 12 years at Expedia. During an emotional all-hands meeting at Uber Wednesday, board member Arianna Huffington may have suggested that Okerstrom would follow Khosrowshahi to Uber. Here’s how The Guardian characterized the moment:

During the Q&A, Huffington reportedly revealed that Expedia’s chief financial officer, Mark Okerstrom, would also be joining Uber, but Khosrowshahi stopped her mid-sentence. It’s not clear whether she was misinformed or whether it was an appointment that hadn’t been made public yet.

It was natural to speculate that Okerstrom might follow Khosrowshahi to Uber; the two maintained a close relationship as Expedia execs. In fact, we may see closer collaboration between Uber and Expedia as a result of the friendship of the two chief executives.

“I think at this point they’re in a complementary industry,” Okerstrom said on a media call after his new role was announced. “I would actually hope — and Dara and I were actually speaking about this — given our close relationship, who knows? There’s probably ways that we can work much more closely together than we ever have before.”

Okerstrom took over as Expedia’s financial chief in 2011 and helped guide the company through a series of acquisitions, including Trivago, Orbitz, and HomeAway. Before taking the CFO gig, Okerstrom was Expedia’s secretary. Prior to joining the online travel giant, he was a consultant with Bain & Company in Boston and San Francisco. Earlier in his career, he was stationed in London, working with UBS Investment Bank and practicing law with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

“Prior to Dara leaving, Mark Okerstrom was his principal partner in operating the company — and therefore this transition is as natural as water flowing down a snow-packed mountain,” said Diller in a statement. “There was no other candidate that the board considered. Under Mark’s leadership, surrounded by his excellent and tenured executive team, I’m confident we’ll continue to grow and prosper.”

Continue reading for the full text of Okerstrom’s email to employees:

Team Expedia,

Well well! These have been an eventful few days haven’t they!

By now I am sure that you have seen the news that I have accepted the role of President & CEO of Expedia, Inc. Having worked side by side with Dara for the past (nearly) 11 years, I know better than most the size of his shoes – big! He is a strong, visionary leader, has been a great mentor to many of us (me included), and I count him as a real friend. Somehow saying the standard “Please join me in thanking Dara and wishing him the best of luck in his new role” doesn’t quite cut it, does it?! So let me just express (on behalf of all of us), a heartfelt thanks to Mr. Dara Khosrowshahi for the tremendous legacy he has left us all. Uber is a very fortunate company.

Looking forward, let me start by saying that I am honored and humbled to have been entrusted to lead this great company of ours through its next phase of growth. We find ourselves in the enviable but equally daunting spot of being in a stronger position than perhaps we have ever been. Yet, we face competitive pressures as fierce as ever and see so much opportunity for improvement and growth ahead. Go Global, Go Faster, and Simply Do Better for Customers, Partners, Employees and Shareholders. So much more left for us to do together!

So what can you expect from me and for Expedia, Inc., going forward? In short, I would assume largely a continuation of the strategic course we have been on. I have been intimately involved in shaping the strategic and financial direction of this company for the past 11 years, so I actually do not have a long list of “Things to do completely differently when Dara leaves” burning a hole in my pocket. What I do have is a passion for listening, for learning, and for organizational and self-improvement. I have a deep curiosity for understanding how we can continue to be a better tech company and most importantly how we can more aggressively innovate to provide even more valuable products and services to our customers and partners alike. So in the near term…you will probably see me asking a lot of questions, listening and no doubt making a few mistakes here and there (apologies in advance :)).

I am fortunate to be surrounded by the strongest Travel Leadership Team I have ever seen at Expedia, Inc., and objectively one of the strongest and deepest executive teams out there. The entire TLT, without exception is an extraordinarily committed bunch, who are all in this for the long haul. That said, though we are proud of how far we have come over the past decade plus, in true Expedia fashion, I can assure you that we are all hungry to be better….to truly reach the moving goal posts of realizing our full potential as a company. I believe in this company and I believe in you – I always have. And I know from watching Expedians in action over the years that, together, when we chart a clear course, stay focused and execute – we are a force to be reckoned with in the world of technology and travel.

I suspect many of you have unanswered questions. We will be hosting a special Town Hall tomorrow, live-streaming it for those able to watch and recording it for those unable to tune-in live. Please submit your questions using #L427.

I look forward to speaking with you all soon and I am super excited for this next chapter. Thank you in advance for continuing to make Expedia such a special place.


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