Audley Travel to introduce 'John Lewis-style' employee share scheme

Audley Travel to introduce 'John Lewis-style' employee share scheme

Direct-sell operator Audley Travel is to introduce a “John Lewis-style” share scheme for employees, following its partial sale to investors 3i Group.

Months of speculation ended before Christmas when private equity firm 3i said it was making a £159 million investment in the operator, replacing investors Equistone Partners Europe.

3i declined to reveal its overall stake in the business, but Audley chief executive Ian Simkins said he had negotiated share ownership for employees.

Staff who have worked for Audley Travel for at least three years – about 60% of the workforce – will share a pot of money when 3i exits. Typically, private equity firms remain in a company for three to seven years.

Simkins (pictured, right) said: “At Audley, we try to be outstanding in three areas: for our clients, as a place to work and in our growth. Our plans are going to mean more work for everyone, so the wider we make the share ownership, the more aligned to those objectives the staff are. It’s the John Lewis approach.

“3i totally gets us, culturally, as a business. To give a great client experience, we have to attract the best people to work with us. So we invest enormous amounts in making Audley a great place to work.”

Audley Travel is forecast to make £165 million worth of sales in 2015, a 20% increase on 2014, and plans to grow in the US, Canadian and Irish markets.

Tom Salmon, director of 3i (pictured, left), said: “Audley is a market-leading business that delivers outstanding service to its clients and which is capitalising on the growing demand for high-quality, genuinely tailored, experiential travel.”

Craig Burkinshaw and John Brewer founded the business 20 years ago. Equistone Partners Europe paid about £90 million for a stake in 2012. The operator employs about 350 people.

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