Mixing business with friendship can be a risky thing but it sounds like the prospective new owners of Abercrombie & Kent share the same views on luxury travel.
The former owner of Silversea Cruises is teaming-up with the founder of Abercrombie & Kent to take control of the luxury tour operator for an undisclosed figure.
Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, through his Monaco-based Heritage Group, will own 85 percent of Abercrombie & Kent, while Geoffrey Kent, the current chairman and CEO, will take a 15 percent stake.
The pair, who are friends and live in Monaco, are buying the business from struggling Chinese property developer Zhonghong Holdings, which was delisted from the Shenzhen Stock Exchange at the end of last year.
Lefebvre sold a 66.6 percent stake in Silversea Cruises to Royal Caribbean for $1 billion and is using some of this to fund the Abercrombie & Kent acquisition, although this is a totally separate investment. He will become chairman of Abercrombie & Kent Holding.
Kent said the pair started discussing the deal back in September. Originally he had looked into private equity for financial backing, before Lefebvre decided he wanted to get involved.
“Abercrombie & Kent is a jewel and I think that the sector where it operates allows a lot of growth, and potential expansion and also consolidation,” Lefebvre told Skift.
He drew comparisons with the cruise industry, which has seen a large number of mergers in recent years.
Abercrombie & Kent has a network of destination management companies across the world with 56 offices and more than 2,500 employees.
Kent, along with his parents, founded the company in Kenya in 1962. he sees the new ownership structure bringing more stability while also helping it to expand.
“We would like to open up between five and ten DMCs a year,” said Kent.
Having so many DMCs across the world gives Abercrombie & Kent much more control of the final tourism product, a key selling point in the luxury market.
“I’ve just come back from India where I did an amazing trip and not one single thing went wrong, not one one tiny thing, because we control the last mile. We control what wine you’re going to drink because we have the destination [management] company,” Kent said.
The parties expect the deal to close later this year, once it has secured various regulatory approvals.
Watch Geoffrey Kent speak at the 2015 Skift Global Forum
Photo credit: An Abercrombie and Kent branded aircraft, The company is going to have new owners. Abercrombie and Kent