But he stopped short at pointing the finger directly at former chief Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who oversaw a debt-fuelled 2007 merger with MyTravel and the merger with Co-op Travel at a time when bookings were shifting to online.
Describing Fankhauser as ‘a German speaker whose English is less than perfect and heavily peppered with corporate phraseology’, the Mail on Sunday said the 58-year-old Swiss-born father of three appeared ’emotionally drained and sleep deprived’.
He told the newspaper that after liquidators took control of the company in the early hours of last Monday he had tried unsuccessfully to get a few hours’ sleep and was back in the office at 5.30am to break the news to his 150-strong management team.
He said many colleagues were crying. “It was heartbreaking,” he said.
Fankhauser said that until the very last minute he had been convinced a rescue deal would be pulled off.
“I tried my absolute best to save the company but the truth is I didn’t pull it over the line,” he said.
“And I understand all the anger. All the disappointment of my colleagues. I understand all that. But I gave everything not to be in this situation.”
He added: “I’m grateful for the loyalty of millions of customers. And I feel deeply, deeply sorry that they suffered this crisis. I can’t say more than that. I can just tell them I tried everything for this company.”
Despite the company’s problems, Fankhauser believed it would have had a long-term future had the Government stumped up the £200 million demanded by lenders.
But he said he would never dare criticise the Government’s decision not to support the 178-year-old company as he understood they did not want to set a precedent.
Asked about the Parliament’s Business Select Committee inquiry into the collapse of the company and the senior management’s pay and bonuses, Fankhauser said: “I don’t think that I’m the fat cat that I’m being described as.”
He pointed out that around half of the £8.3 million he received between 2014 and 2018 came in share payments, which are now worthless.
He dismissed allegations by Business Select Committee chairwoman Rachel Reeves, that bosses used ‘aggressive accounting methods’ to improve their chances of being paid bonuses.
“That is just rubbish,” he told the Mail on Sunday “I shouldn’t say that. But it is just not right.”