Leading mid-market private equity firm LDC has today announced that it has completed a significant investment to support the management buyout and future new site roll-out of Forest Holidays, specialists in exclusive rural holiday accommodation.
The deal enables existing shareholder The Camping and Caravanning Club to fully exit the business, while the Forestry Commission will retain a significant shareholding.
Established in 2006 and headquartered in Moira in Derbyshire, Forest Holidays has 315 cabins set in seven Forestry Commission estates across the UK - Argyll and Strathyre in Scotland, Cropton Forest and Keldy in North Yorkshire, the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest in the Heart of England and Deerpark Forest in Cornwall. The business has more than 100 employees.
All of Forest Holidays’ cabin sites are eco and environmentally sensitive and occupy picturesque woodland or lakeside locations, providing the perfect setting for UK holidays and weekend breaks. With an emphasis on luxury facilities and high quality accommodation, cabins sleep between two and ten people, in a mixture of single storey, two storey and tree house accommodation. The majority of cabins have private outdoor hot tubs, as well as indoor log burning stoves and under floor heating. Forest Holidays suit couples, families and groups travelling at all times of the year.
Forest Holidays has enjoyed considerable revenue and profit growth in recent years, following a growing demand for UK domestic short holiday breaks in eco-friendly and up-market locations. In the past two years, the business has added more than 150 new cabins to its offering, with 76 in the Forest of Dean, 19 in North Yorkshire and 65 in Sherwood Forest which opened earlier this year. The business is now well-positioned for future growth, with a strong portfolio of existing site locations and record booking levels.
LDC has backed Forest Holidays’ existing management team, which is led by Chief Executive Gary Fletcher, who has developed Forest Holidays to this point.
As part of LDC’s investment strategy, the existing management team will be further supported by the appointment of Peter Phillipson as Non-Executive Chairman. Previously Chairman of The Tussauds Group, Mr Phillipson has a strong track record of working with private equity backed companies, and brings to Forest Holidays significant marketing experience in the leisure industry. His insight and experience of developing brands will help to drive the business’ growth strategy.
The deal will provide the capital required to help support the continuing growth of Forest Holidays through a proactive sales and marketing programme, alongside an accelerated cabin build programme which will include additional new sites in key UK locations.
The deal was led by LDC’s UK New Business Managing Director Martin Draper, together with Investment Directors Andy Grove and Matthew Norrington. Martin Draper and Andy Grove will join the board with immediate effect.
LDC’s investment and support brings additional strategic input and financial backing to our business
Chief Executive of Forest Holidays
Commenting on LDC’s investment, Gary Fletcher, Chief Executive of Forest Holidays, said:
“Our business has shown an encouraging resilience to the challenging economic conditions of recent years, with an increasing number of customers choosing to take UK-based short, exclusive and ‘away from it all’ breaks.
“LDC’s investment and support brings additional strategic input and financial backing to our business and will help us to deliver our ambitious growth plans. As part of our strategy to accelerate the pace of organic growth, we are keen to roll out an ambitious expansion programme which will involve a considerable uplift in cabin numbers and UK forest sites over the next few years.”
Martin Draper, LDC’s UK New Business Managing Director, said:
“Forest Holidays operate in a rapidly evolving marketplace, driven largely by a growing demand for upmarket retreat breaks in exclusive rural surroundings. The business has generated considerable profit growth in recent years after successfully rolling out a highly successful business model that maximises economies of scale and fixed overhead costs.
“We are partnering with a high-quality management team led by Gary Fletcher, with a huge amount of knowledge and experience in the top-end domestic short-break holiday market. Going forward, we look forward to supporting the team as they continue to build on the business’ recent growth, whilst helping to execute the next phase of its development.”
The deal with Forest Holidays forms part of LDC’s continuing strategy of investing in leading mid-market businesses. It represents LDC’s fourteenth new investment of 2012, having invested over £215million of new funding, together with further capital to support nine portfolio business acquisitions.
Banking facilities, including the provision of future development financing, were provided by Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking & Markets in Birmingham, led by Richard Smith.
The transaction was completed with support from a number of Midlands-based advisors, including Wragge & Co, who acted as lead legal adviser to LDC and Forest Holidays’ management team, supported by Freeth Cartwright. Deloitte provided financial tax and property due diligence. The Camping and Caravanning Club and The Forestry Commission were advised by SRP Risk & Finance LLP, together with Pinsent Masons, Eversheds and SENN Consulting. Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking & Markets were advised by SGH Martineau.
Issued on behalf of LDC by Citypress
Press information: Katie Dale, Citypress. Telephone: 0121 230 1783.