It's one thing for a private equity group to own many fragmented hotel and travel assets. It's another to own a distribution platform to sell those products. Apple Leisure Group's new owners have to feel good about leveraging the company's scale and using its resources to help increase the viability of its existing assets.
Considering the size of its holdings and impact on the North American travel marketplace, the sale of Apple Leisure Group to private equity giant KKR and its travel-centric affiliate KSL has gone relatively under the radar since it was announced last month.
Apple Leisure Group, which was initially given an equity infusion by Bain Capital in 2012 to ostensibly finance its growth, underwent many changes following the acquisition that were fueled by the money it received.
Most notably, it bought CheapCaribbean.com to sell its resort products to consumers and vacation packager Travel Impressions to amplify its ability to sell vacations through travel agents. The company sells the most all-inclusive vacations in North America, along with a variety of other vacation products and hotel management services.
Apple Leisure Group now owns resort brands, a tour operator, an online travel agency, a vacation packager for agents, and a destination marketing group. This vertical integration helped increase the wholesaler’s value for its inevitable sale to KKR and KSL.
The company also swapped in a whole new executive staff following Bain Capital’s investment, promoting AMResorts founder Alex Zozaya to CEO.
“The doubling up of our distribution not only allowed us to be more successful on the resort side with the openings of new in hotels, in addition to the ones that had just opened in 2013 and 2014, but also made us a stronger management company on the hotel side resulting in the signing of more contracts and stronger pipelines,” Zozaya told Skift in late 2014.
In early 2015, Apple Vacations president Jeff Mullen took over Apple Leisure Group’s chief operating officer position and Travel Impressions president Tim Mullen moved over to Apple Vacations.
Apple Lesiure Group’s new owner KSL acquired Outrigger Hotels & Resorts in November, adding to its portfolio of upscale hotel properties. It also owns or has an investment in more than a dozen other resorts in addition to a wellness brand and country club operator. Combined with Apple Leisure Group’s luxury all-inclusive product, particularly its AMResorts brand which stands at about 60 properties heading into 2017, KSL now owns a particularly strong luxury portfolio.
Apple Leisure Group can help manage KSL’s hotels, sell them to consumers, and package them for travel sellers, in addition to offering vacation activities like tours from Apple Vacations while in destination. Looking down the road, KSL can also help finance further acquisitions for the travel giant.
The combination of these assets will almost certainly make a profitable sale for its private equity stakeholders in a few years.
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Photo Credit: Apple Leisure Group passing hands from one private equity giant to another bodes well for its future. Here, a vacationer plays golf at the Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort and Spa, which is an Apple Leisure Group hotel. Dreams Los Cabos / Facebook
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