Faced with losses since a decline in travel following the September 11 terrorist attacks, WHSmith has sold its two U.S. businesses for a total of £49 million ($76.5 million). The Hudson Group bought 180 airport stores, including a number of Waterstone's bookstore outlets, for £41 million, while Travel Traders, a company headed by former WHSmith U.S. CEO Sean Anderson, bought 280 hotel stores for £8 million. WHSmith will retain a 15% interest in Travel.
The airport stores, which had sales of $214 million last year, will become part of Hudson's retail division, which already owns some 250 outlets, most operating under the name Hudson News. The stores have annual sales of more than $250 million. Hudson is also the parent company of the small New England chain Book Corner. James Cohen, president of Hudson, said the purchase will expand Hudson's presence throughout North America. Prior to the acquisition, Hudson operated in 40 airport and transportation terminals.
The hotel stores that will form the core of Travel Trades had sales of $133 million last year. WHSmith will provide transitional services for the hotel business until February 29, 2004, after which it will close its Atlanta offices. The Atlanta office has about 120 employees and costs approximately $32 million annually to operate.