River cruise and escorted tours specialist operator Riviera Travel is being tipped for sale for as much as £250 million.
The business, founded in 1984, is set to go up for sale after its majority owner, Phoenix Equity Partners, hired professional services firm PwC to find new investors, according to The Sunday Times, quoting sources.
The auction comes less than three years after founder Michael Wright sold a majority stake to Phoenix, valuing the operator at £120 million.
He retained a “significant minority” stake after the 2014 sale to Phoenix, and currently acts as a non-executive director.
Private equity sources said a sale would value Riviera at about £250 million, catapulting Wright up the list of Britain’s top earners.
The Staffordshire-based entrepreneur has already amassed a fortune of £135 million – through the 2014 sale and other business interests – according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.
Wright’s fortune increased by £10 million last year, according to the Rich List, which ranked the tycoon as 820th in the country for individual wealth.
Riviera made a £9.2 million profit in 2015 on turnover of £126 million, according to its most recent set of available accounts.
Leisure industry sources said profitability has increased significantly since then due to a surge in the popularity of river cruises.
The sale talks are said to be at an early stage, although Riviera has been in contact with City bankers and advisers for several months, insiders said.
Investment heavyweights such as Bridgepoint and Equistone, the former buyout arm of Barclays, have registered an interest in purchasing the company in the past.
A successful auction would generate a handsome return for Phoenix, best known in the City for owning the fashion brand LK Bennett and restaurant chain Busaba Eathai.
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