Greg O'Hara and Noam Gottesman will be shopping for a winner, but unlike early stage investors, they can hunt for a travel company with an extensive track record. In the midst of a global pandemic, this is not a done deal, but you can bet a deal will get done.
Certares founder and Liberty Tripadvisor Vice Chairman Greg O’Hara is one of two founders of Go Acquisition Corp., which executed a $500 million initial public offering with the intent of going shopping for mergers.
Companies such as Go Acquisition, which started trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GOAC.U, go public without owning an operating company, and with the express purpose of buying one, acquiring assets, purchasing stock, or in some manner combining with an existing company.
The other founder of the so-called “blank check company” is Noam Gottesman, who co-founded GLG Partners and is the founder and managing partner of Tom’s Capital, which has investments in restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park in New York City, and the frozen food industry.
Under the rules of going public under this special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, framework, Go Acquisition was not allowed to identify targets or entertain offers until going public. Such entities generally have two years to do a deal.
If you consider Certares’ travel industry investments, then you might assume Go Acquisition could be interested in a business travel company, a river cruising outfit, a tour operator, or an online travel company. In fact, Go Acquisition stated: “The Company intends to focus its efforts in identifying a prospective target business on travel-related and travel-adjacent businesses with either all or a substantial portion of its activities in North America or Europe.”
Certares’ current investments are in travel management companies (American Express Global Business Travel in London and Nirvana Travel & Tourism in Abu Dhabi); river cruise companies (AmaWaterways in the United States and Mystic Investment Holding in Portugal); online travel-related companies and travel agencies (Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings and Travel Leaders Group/Internova Travel Group, both in the United States); and French tour operator Marietton Developpement.
In March, Certares made a $325 milliion investment in Greg Maffei’s Liberty Tripadvisor, which is the controlling shareholder of Tripadvisor. Maffei is the chairman of Tripadvisor’s board of directors and O’Hara has a board seat.
In reality, Go Acquisition could buy or invest in a variety of companies, and is likely considering a full plate of prospects, likely mostly in travel. Travel management companies are suffering because of the dearth of business travel, and river cruising is mostly grounded so this might not seem a particularly adept time to invest in either given the uncertainties about their future. But there could certainly be bargains available for the taking if you believes in the sectors’ futures.
Perhaps investing in a travel technology company, or if the founders believe hospitality will come back strong, then buying a hotel brand could be the order of the day.
Gottesman and O’Hara, who are co-CEOs, have voting control of Go Acquistion.
The company priced the offering at $10 per unit, which consists of one unit of Class A common stock and one-third of a redeemable warrant. Each whole warrant entitles the holder to purchase one share of common stock at a $11.50 per share exercise price.
The stock closed at $10 per unit, according to MarketWatch.
The real drama in the stock price likely wouldn’t occur until Go Acquisition identifies a potential merger or deal.
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Photo Credit: The New York Stock Exchange as seen on March 1, 2013. Go Acquisition Corp. went public on August 5, 2020. Paxti Moraleda / Flickr.com