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In a move that stabilizes Tripadvisor’s ownership structure, private equity firm Certares Management purchased $325 million of preferred stock in Liberty Tripadvisor, and becomes a strategic investor.
Share of Greg Maffei’s Liberty Tripadvisor, which controls 57.5 percent of Tripadvisor’s voting power, have fallen 83 percent so far this year, and closed at $1.52 per share on March 13.
With the transaction, Greg O’Hara, founder and senior managing director of Certares, with investments in American Express Global Business Travel, Travel Leaders Group, and Nirvana Travel & Tourism, takes a seat as a director on the Liberty Tripadvisor board, and becomes vice chairman.
The move doesn’t have a direct impact on Tripadvisor, which had $319 million in cash and equivalents, no debt, and the capacity to borrow at the end of 2019, but shores up the financials of Tripadvisor’s controlling shareholder, Liberty Tripadvisor, because 100 percent of an existing margin loan gets paid off.
Under the deal, funds controlled by Certares Management would purchase $325 million of Liberty Tripadvisor 8 percent Series A cumulative redeemable preferred stock. Liberty Trip will use that investment, along with $34 million of secured borrowings, to pay off its margin loan.
Liberty Tripadvisor chairman and CEO Maffei welcomed O’Hara to the board, adding in a statement that “this investment secures long-term financing, which is not tied to stock price movements in this volatile environment.”
The investment is slated to be completed within 10 days.
“Liberty TripAdvisor is a natural fit for Certares,” said O’Hara in a statement. “We seek leaders in our sectors and look forward to deeper involvement with Liberty TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel community.”
Update: The story was updated to note that Greg O’Hara of Certares will become vice chairman of Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings when the deal closes.