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Equistone backs Travel Counsellors

27 Oct 2014

Equistone Partners Europe, one of Europe’s leading mid-market private equity firms, has invested in the leading independent leisure business Travel Counsellors, for an undisclosed sum.  

Founded in 1994 by David and Maureen Speakman, Travel Counsellors enables travel professionals to work from home whilst supporting them in all areas of their business. This has seen the company achieve 60 per cent growth over the past five years, with forecast global sales of £424m for the year ending 31 October 2014.

The Bolton-headquartered company employs 250 staff and has over 1,300 travel experts operating in eight countries worldwide, including Ireland, Belgium, South Africa, Netherlands, UAE, Australia and Canada.

The investment from Equistone’s fourth fund provides the company with a platform to build on its recent growth and secure its position as one of the UK’s leading leisure businesses. It will also enable Travel Counsellors to increase the support it offers to its global family of agents, as well as bolstering its international buying power and potential for further overseas expansion.

The business will continue to be led by managing director Steve Byrne, who has been with the firm for ten years and David Speakman who will remain in his role as Chairman. As part of the deal, Equistone partners Steve O’Hare and Joyce Church will join the board of the company as non-executive directors.

Steve Byrne, managing director of Travel Counsellors, commented: “We will use the investment and partnership with Equistone to take the Company to yet another level and accelerate our growth, enabling us to capitalise on the many opportunities we have to expand the business further in both leisure and corporate sectors. This expansion will further bolster our global buying power and strengthen our position as the market-leading travel company for personal service, to the benefit of our agents globally. ”

Steve O’Hare, partner at Equistone Partners Europe, added: “Travel Counsellors has shown impressive long term year-on-year growth under the current management team. The additional funding will be used to develop its support to its agents and market leading software, which is crucial to ensure high levels of service to its growing customer base. We look forward to working with the team and are excited about their plans to expand the business in new and existing territories.”

David Speakman, Chairman of Travel Counsellors, said: “It has always been my intention to ensure the long term interests of the company and make Travel Counsellors even stronger for the benefit of each individual agent and their customers. We have partnered with Equistone as they buy into our proven business model, culture and ethos, and we look forward to an extremely promising future as a global travel company that puts its customers first.”

Rothschild and Addleshaw Goddard advised Travel Counsellors on the transaction.

Equistone was advised by Deloitte, while Pinsent Masons provided legal advice.

The Acquisition Finance and Mid-Markets teams at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking provided a package of senior debt and working capital facilities.

PwC provided financial due diligence, and commercial due diligence was provided by L.E.K. Consulting.

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