In a development straight out of the leftfield, Priceline CEO and president Jeff Boyd has handed over control of the company to Booking.com boss Darren Huston.
The announcement was made as Priceline announced its third quarter 2013 earnings today.
Boyd, considered by many to be one of the smartest and most respected bosses in the industry, will remain as chairman of the Priceline board of directors.
Huston will continue his role as Booking.com CEO as he also takes on the daunting task of filling the shoes of Boyd, a figure at the centre of one of the most successful businesses in the history of the web, let alone the travel sector.
Hardly a Priceline lifer such as many of the executives that have surrounded Boyd for years, Huston joined the group in September 2011 to replace Kees Koolen.
Huston had spent eight years with Microsoft, responsible for its consumer and advertising businesses in 40 countries. From 2005 to 2008 he was president and CEO of Microsoft Japan.
A former McKinsey consultant and advisor to the Canadian government, before joining Microsoft, Huston was senior vice president of Starbucks Corporation where he was in charge acquisitions and product development.
Despite the credentials, it will be Boyd's stepping aside rather than Huston's promotion which will shock the industry after a run of financial results and growth which have left almost the entire sector - bar Carnival - trailing in its wake.
The statement announcing the transition did not disclose any reason for the move.
"Darren has done a great job leading Booking.com, the Group’s largest business, delivering impressive
growth and share gains.
"Darren is the right choice to lead the Group and I look forward to working with him closely as Chairman of the Board.”
Under Boyd's 11-year leadership, Priceline Group has seen its financial performance go from strength to strength, not least in the last six years where its share price has increased six-fold.
A string of acquisitions and launches (Booking.com and Agoda, in particular) have seen it move into leading positions around the world in hospitality, whilst the Priceline brand has continued to give the likes of Expedia a run for its money back in the US.
More recently it sharpened its eye on the car rental market when it snapped up TravelJigsaw in 2010.
But, still, it will be Priceline's acquisition of Booking.com in 2005, which accelerated growth in the group both financially and strategically, which will go down as one of the most profitable deals in the history of online travel.
James Guyette, lead independent director of the board of directors, adds:
"Jeff has done an outstanding job leading the Priceline Group over the past eleven years and we are pleased to announce Darren’s appointment as part of our long-term succession planning."