Members of The Travel Network Group have welcomed a management buyout of the agency group.
The deal was confirmed earlier this week and sees Gary Lewis, previously group managing director, take up the role of chief executive.
TTNG, the parent organisation of Worldchoice and the Travel Trust Association, had previously been owned by private equity firm Alcuin Capital Partners since 2007.
The 850-member consortium would not confirm how much the buyout was worth, but said the money had been raised through “personal investment, bank funding and private equity”.
World Travel Holdings UK managing director, James Cole, said he was pleased about the news. The tour operating side of the business joined TTNG in May 2015.
Cole said: “One of the key reasons for us moving was the enthusiasm, passion and experience of the TTNG management team lead by Gary Lewis.
“Albeit we did not know about the MBO being in the pipeline at the time, we were so pleased to hear the news and glad that we will be working with Gary and the team for the years to come.
“We also recently signed a long-term partnership with TTNG to provide their 800-plus members with differentiated and bespoke cruise tour operator product. Well done to Gary and team.”
Premier Travel Group managing director, Susan Papworth, said: “This is fantastic news for TTNG with whom we work with very closely - we have an excellent relationship with the management team and have seen the business grow from strength to strength.
“This buyout will undoubtedly have a positive impact moving forward and we wish everyone at TTNG every success.”
Crusader Travel director, Hedda Lyons, said: “We were very happy to hear the news. It’s a good thing. We have been members of TTA for a long time and like that we will continue to work with the same team.”
Lewis said he and the other four members of the management team – Si Prentice, Lisa Henning, Avril Hurd and Vim Vithaldas – owned 85% of the holding company that has bought TTNG. The other 15% is owned by an undisclosed private equity firm.
As a result of the deal, Simon Hargreaves has stepped down as the group’s chairman. The management team may introduce a new chairman in the future.
Alcuin had had a five-year exit strategy and was due to withdraw in 2012. Lewis said the team had been working towards a buyout for the past three years and admitted the management team and Alcuin had not been “aligned on decisions” in the past couple of years.
He said TTNG was financially sound, as the deal removed “private equity debt and stabilised the business completely”.
“Our members were key to this decision,” said Lewis. “We want to be able to run the business in the best way for our members and the buyout allows us to be more entrepreneurial than before. We’re really excited about what’s to come.
“The right people own this company on behalf of our members. The previous private equity firm wasn’t too involved day to day but that kind of business has very different agendas to our own. We have ownership now and we can drive the business forward without any hindrance.”
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