Royal Caribbean-owned cruise agency Cruise 1st has been sold to its management, it has been announced today.
The Manchester-based specialist , which revealed in June it was “exploring the possibility” of an external sale, said the deal comes as it gears up for significant growth.
The financial terms of the deal are being kept confidential but it was confirmed that no private equity was involved in the deal.
Cruise 1st, a trading division of Sunshine Cruise Holidays which employs 100 staff in the UK, Australia and Singapore, is understood to have received an offer from at least one rival cruise agency.
However, the firm said the decision to pursue a management buyout will enable it to grow independently.
Cruise 1st said its business has grown 62% so far in 2015, with 50% growth in its call centres which are expected to double in size by the end of 2016 following the change in ownership
Dan Townsley, chief executive of Cruise 1st, said: “We looked at all the options on the table, carefully considering all the pros and cons and the best option by far was the management buyout.
“This kept stability in the business with a management team that knows the business inside out.
“The company has never been in such good shape and we are looking forward to growing the business with a management team and staff that care passionately about Cruise 1st.”
Townsley confirmed there will be no job losses due to the buyout and that the firm will be recruiting, and praised Royal Caribbean for its support while it was the owner.
“The business has always been under my control as our great relationship with Royal Caribbean allowed us to manage the business how we saw fit within the restraints of being owned by a large corporate organisation.
“Our time with Royal Caribbean has been amazing. It truly has. Royal Caribbean empowers its staff and it works.
“My passion for Cruise 1st is still as strong as when I started it up; my job has changed dramatically due to our size but one of my aims is to continue to empower our staff and give them ownership of their departments.
“We have amazing talent in our business and I'm very proud of them and what we have achieved over the years.”
Townsley added: “This management buyout will allow Cruise 1st to become a real force in the market.
“Working with Royal Caribbean over the past seven years has been fantastic and its support has been crucial in the growth of our company.
“We are confident that the new ownership will allow the business to grow and succeed, supported by our ability to be nimble and expand into new product ranges with more cruise lines.
“With independence, our focus will remain on expanding our product base with the aim of including a world-wide tour operator, more cruises with inclusive tours and a selection of river cruises.
“We have a clear and strategic five-year growth plan, which we intend to meet through efficiency, technology product, and customer service.
“Our staff are our biggest asset, who support the buyout 100%, and have been instrumental in the growth of the brand. Although we don’t aim to be the biggest, we do aim to be the best.”
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