THE TOP operators are battlingto take a stake in Harry Goodman's £100m TVTravel Shop operation.
Airtours, Thomas Cook and First Choice are all thought to be vying to invest around £25m in the home shopping channel. Market leader Thomson is also interested but is thought to be less likely to take a stake, as are companies outside the travel industry.
Multinational IT giant Flextech owns 87.5% of the cable TV programme which sells holidays, with former ILG chairman Harry Goodman and his long-time business partner Denis Strauss owning 12.5%.
It is thought one of the operators will take a 25% stake while Flextech will remain the majority shareholder. Goodman and Strauss are expected to receive a lump sum, but will stay on to spearhead the station's growth.
Industry analysts said the sums quoted for the operation, which has only been running for 16 months and is yet to post profits, were very high.
But the operators have been impressed by the huge potential of the TVTravel Shop, which is thought to have taken 150,000 bookings in its first full year and is on target for 600,000 bookings by year four.
Ironically, Thomson refused to work with TVTravel Shop because former chief executive Paul Brett, who was a great rival of Goodman and ILG in the 1980s, said the concept would not work. But Brett's departure a month ago has led to a change in attitude atThomson.
Operators have also been impressed by the channel's ability to sell high priced, and in particular long haul, holidays. TVTravel Shop's average price for a Unijet holiday is £800 and for a Royal Caribbean International cruise is £1,100. TVTravel Shop is fast becoming a recognised consumer brand and although any new shareholder is likely to promote its own holidays through the programme, it will be keen to ensure that TVTravel Shop is still seen as an independent distribution channel.
TVTravel Shop and operators declined to comment.
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