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Internova Travel Group sues two ex-employees who formed a new venture

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Internova Travel Group has sued two former employees of its Altour division, alleging their new agency venture, NousTravel, performs the same functions of Altour and
that the employees breached contractual agreements by soliciting employees and taking trade secrets.

Internova and Altour filed a lawsuit against Anthony Lee Thomas, who left Altour last year, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Feb. 16.

According to Travel Weekly’s sister publication The Beat,
a lawsuit was also filed against Barry Noskeau in Travis County, Texas. The New York lawsuit notes Noskeau was not named in the filing because he resides in Texas and it was unclear if he would be subject to personal jurisdiction in New York, but he also had an agreement with
Altour regarding soliciting employees and advisors.

In the lawsuit against Thomas, Internova claims that Thomas, who resigned from the company effective Dec. 31, 2023, was “involved in the formation and operation of a new entity which intends to provide substantially identical services to those provided
by Altour.” 

He was most recently Altour’s COO and president of business travel for Altour’s The Travel Authority division, according to the lawsuit.

Altour, acquired by Internova in 2017, serves the corporate, leisure, luxury and entertainment sectors.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas was employed by Altour from 1994 until his resignation. As part of his resignation, he had an agreement with Internova that had restrictions on soliciting and engaging customers and employees. It also included a special
payment of $193,427.78, which the lawsuit said could be recovered by Internova if Thomas breached that agreement.

NousTravel was founded on Feb. 1, and Thomas, the lawsuit states, “is providing services to Nous as an employee, consultant, manager, or all of the above.” The lawsuit also states NousTravel is staffed “entirely” by Altour employees and operates with
the same business model.

Internova alleges Thomas solicited Altour employees “directly or indirectly” and that seven senior employees have resigned since NousTravel’s founding. Those solicitations, the company claims, breach Thomas’ agreement with the company. Internova also
alleges Thomas intends to solicit Altour travel advisors.

The lawsuit claims Thomas had access to “trade secret information,” including travel advisor agreements with commission and pay structure, used to solicit advisors for NousTravel.

On NousTravel’s website, Thomas was listed as a strategic advisor and Noskeau its president. (Noskeau was most recently Altour’s executive vice president of strategic planning before resigning effective Jan. 31.) 

The lawsuit alleges Thomas and Noskeau “were plotting to create Nous prior to their departures from Altour,” and after Noskeau’s departure, “a steady stream of resignations began.”

That includes Louise Whitney, Altour’s vice president of the hotel division and vendor relations; David Sefton, senior vice president of operations, West Coast; Lisa Wheeler, vice president of operations, East Coast; Joan Fortune, senior vice president
of operations; and Amy Blankenship, vice president of retail operations.

At least one “exclusive” Altour travel advisor received a formal offer from Nous with competitive contractual points, according to the lawsuit.

Internova is seeking injunctive relief and monetary reimbursement. The company has requested a jury trial.
In a brief filed with the court on March 5, Thomas described himself as “a consultant with the title strategic advisor” with NousTravel.

“Nous is in the planning and development phase of its business,” Thomas wrote. “It has transacted no travel business and has had no earnings.”

While Thomas said he plans to invest in the company, he has not yet done so.

Thomas also claims he is not involved in hiring and denied Internova’s claims that he had solicited employees or independent contractors.

“I have not communicated with any individual who was employed by plaintiffs in the last six months about job opportunities at Nous,” he said.

Thomas also described how he left Altour, which he characterized differently than Internova. After founder and CEO Alexandre Chemla left, Thomas said he was “pushed out of Altour,” and that he was told he “would lose all of my titles and that there was effectively no place for me at Altour.”

Chemla left at the end of 2023. Internova has since combined Travel Leaders Corporate and Altour under the Altour brand. 

Thomas claims that since Internova acquired Altour, “tensions between Mr. Chemla and [Internova] grew more severe.” An exit plan for Thomas was formulated from March to December 2023, he said.

Thomas also claims Internova waived the noncompetition restriction from his separation agreement and that he “received written permission from Altour to invest in another travel-related business, to accept a board of directors’ position, and to accept
a strategic advisor position.”

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