Skift Take

Cruise Planners' management is on its own now, and should be able to do what is think is best for the company without worrying about any meddling from its former owner.

The management of Cruise Planners, which claims to be the largest U.S. home-based travel agent network in cruise sales, bought Palm Beach Capital’s majority stake in the company.

Michelle Fee, Cruise Planners CEO, co-founded the franchise network in 1994, and held a minority stake since the private equity firm acquired the two other co-founders’ stakes in 2005.

The travel agency group has more than 800 members, all home-based, and did $120 million in sales in 2011, the company says.

Fee, CFO Tom Kruszewski, and COO Vicky Garcia take 100% ownership of the franchise group, although the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Cruise Planners was seventh in 2011 sales in a Travel Weekly ranking of franchise groups behind the American Express Representative Travel Network, Uniglobe, Travel Leaders, Results Travel, Expedia CruiseShip Centers, and Cruise One. The Travel Weekly ranking pegged Cruise Planners 2011 sales at $140 million.

Cruise Planners is affiliated with American Express Travel.

A spokesperson for Cruise Planners declined to detail the terms of the transaction with Palm Beach Capital, and said the private equity firm sought to sell its majority stake.

Palm Beach Capital, which has invested in 36 companies since its 2001 founding, states it “partners with management teams in middle market buyouts, recapitalizations and growth equity investments.”

“Cruise Planners is known in the industry for its family-business approach to servicing agents as well as clients, so it’s always felt like my family,” Garcia says. “Now we really are one big family and we will continue to focus our attention on our agents. We don’t sell travel, they do and we’re here to give them the tools and the resources to be the most successful travel advisors in the business.”


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Tags: travel agents

Photo credit: Cruise Planners boasted had around 830 home-based agents in 2011, and did $120 million to $140 million in sales. Cruise Planners

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