Travel Counsellors is pursuing the idea of selling shares in the business, which could result in its agents and even some suppliers being offered a stake.
Chairman David Speakman revealed that the possibility of an initial public offering (IPO) of shares was considered last year, before the company instead opted to sell a majority stake to a private equity firm.He revealed that a trade sale was ruled out because “people in the industry don’t get what Travel Counsellors is about”.
Speakman (pictured) made the comments at the latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast, four months after selling a majority stake in his business to Equistone Partners, which also backs Audley Travel.
“What I decided to do about 18 months ago was to look at an exit – but not a total exit, because I enjoy the business too much,” he said. “It’s a fabulous business and I felt I had a responsibility to hand the baton over.”
Bolton-based Travel Counsellors, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, has 1,300 home-based agents operating in eight markets globally.
Speakman insisted he “was very serious” about an IPO, although he admitted he was told “categorically” he “would not fit in” in the City.
However, he added that going public was something the business should push for and that talks were taking place to “coax” Equistone into an IPO.
“My idea is that you would sell some of the shares to the travel counsellors,” he said. “We could also sell some to hoteliers and you make it so it’s a win‑win for everyone.”
He added there were other options being considered to give agents a stake, including the issuing of bonds.
“There are different ways of tackling it,” he said.
“We are looking at more involvement from our travel counsellors financially.
“It is important that you gel everyone together, build a community and share in your financial success. You can’t be too selfish about business.”
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