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Orbitz, CheapTickets travel to new owner

Blackstone Group buys Cendant's travel business, which includes the two budget sites, among many other properties.

Cendant said Friday that it is selling its travel business, including Orbitz, to the Blackstone Group for approximately $4.3 billion in cash.

Cendant's travel business, known as Travelport, will continue to be headed by former Computer Associates and Hewlett-Packard executive Jeff Clarke.

"I joined two months ago knowing the company would be sold, and I look forward to it being an independent company," Clarke said in a telephone interview Friday.

Clarke, who was chief operating officer at Computer Associates (now known as CA) before assuming the top spot at Cendant's travel unit in April, said Travelport will look to expand organically and to build on a spate of purchases.

"The company acquired 20 companies over the last five years," Clarke said. "We see strong organic growth coming, primarily in the online travel business and in our international markets."

In addition to Orbitz, Travelport operates CheapTickets, Gullivers Travel Associates and about 20 other travel businesses.

Clarke, who left Computer Associates earlier this year, also defended his the software maker.

"CA is in good hands with (CEO) John Swainson and (COO) Mike Christenson, Clarke said. "I worked closely with them and think they are outstanding executives."

On Thursday, CA said that it may have to restate earnings for many recent years because of the way it handled accounting of stock options and for subscription software sales.

Clarke also said he was proud of his own stint at the company. He joined Computer Associates as CFO in April 2004, before being named chief operating officer later that same month.

He said that during his tenure, per-share earnings grew from just more than 50 cents to 82 cents and revenue grew from $3.3 billion to $3.75 billion. Clarke also pointed to CA's having negotiated its settlement with the U.S. government and having recruited a new management team.

"I'm very pleased with my contributions there," Clarke said.