The Travel Network Group’s Gary Lewis has completed a management buyout of the travel agency group.
The deal was confirmed today and sees Lewis, previously group managing director, take up the role of chief executive.
TTNG, the parent organisation of Worldchoice and the Travel Trust Association, was previously wholly owned by private equity firm Alcuin Capital Partners who took ownership of the business in 2007.
The consortium would not confirm how much the buyout was worth but said the money had been raised through “personal investment, bank funding and private equity”.
Lewis said the management team now owned 100% of TTNG, but owned 85% of the holding company. The other 15% stake in the holding company is owned by an undisclosed private equity firm.
As a result of the deal, Simon Hargreaves has stepped down as the group’s chairman. The management team will be considering the possibility of introducing a new chairman in the future.
Lewis said the team had been working towards a buyout for the past three years and it would help shape the future of the business.
He said TTNG was financially sound, as the deal removed “private equity debt and stabilised the business completely”.
“Our members were key to this decision,” he said. “We wanted to be able to run the business in the best way for our members and this allows us to be more entrepreneurial than ever before and we’re really excited about what we have to come.
“The right people own this company on behalf of our members.”
“The previous private equity firm wasn’t too involved day to day but that kind of business has very different agendas to our own. We have ownership now and that means we can drive the business forward without any hindrance.
“I’ve grown up with TTA and TTA Worldchoice and TTNG and I’ve been with this business a long time so I know what our members want.
“We talk about being number one and I believe we are number one in certain areas with a world class business. We are able to now be more like our members in that they have a very entrepreneurial spirit.
“We have had great feedback from our members and many have said it is music to their ears.”
He added: “We believe the change is essential to continue to maintain the professionalism, the required investment and determination to deliver for our members.
“The MBO will bring continued stability to our group and will enable the management team to continue to pursue our strategy of putting members at the centre of everything we do.
“Our group is in an exceptionally strong position both financially and strategically. Our pipeline of new members continues to grow and the satisfaction levels of existing members remains at an all-time high.
“As far as our members are concerned, our commitment remains: to be their preferred travel partner and continue to help them run their businesses as efficiently and profitably as possible.
“The relationships we have with our members remain at the core of everything we do and this will become even more evident as we move forward.”
The MBO includes all membership brands underneath TTNG, including the Travel Trust Association, Worldchoice, Independent Travel Experts, Worldchoice Ireland and TTA Trustees.
The consortium’s management team now consists of Lewis; Lisa Henning, group membership services director; Avril Hurd, group operations and risk director; Si Prentice, group marketing director; and Vim Vithaldas, group commercial and finance director.