Major British resort brand sold back to former owners

by | 27 Sep 2022 | Portfolio

Bourne Leisure and funds managed by investor Blackstone’s private equity and real estate businesses have agreed to the sale of Butlin’s, the iconic British seaside resorts.

The buyer is a newly-formed company, Harris Family Trusts, which is backed by the Harris family, one of the founding families of Bourne, the others being the Cook and Allen clans.

Prior transactions

Established in 1964, Bourne is one of the largest providers of holidays and holiday home ownership in the UK. Blackstone acquired the company from the founding families in January 2021. As part of the transaction, the families co-invested alongside Blackstone, and together hold a minority stake in the business.

Upon completion, Bourne will continue to operate its two heritage brands, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels.

Brands background

Butlin’s was founded in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who opened the first site in Skegness with the aim of revolutionising British seaside holidays. Today, it operates three resorts in Minehead, Bognor Regis and the original site in Skegness which together attract over 1.5 million guests every year.

Haven is the largest UK caravan operator with 41 holiday parks and 2.7 million visitors a year. Large scale investment has seen new accommodation, food outlets, family activities and upgraded swimming pools added to sites across the portfolio. In February 2022, Haven also added its first new park in seven years, Richmond Holiday Park (in Skegness) which will reopen as a Haven in 2023.

Warner is the only UK hotel chain to cater exclusively for adults, offering short breaks. Flagship hotels include the recently refurbished Studley Castle, which opened in 2019, Heythrop Park, which opened in September after a full refurbishment, and the recent acquisition of the Runnymede Hotel in Greater London.

Ambitious upgrades

Blackstone’s European head of private equity, Lionel Assant, said: “Staying true to our high-conviction investment approach, we believe we are well positioned to drive the continued success of both the Haven and Warner businesses. Proceeds from the Butlin’s sale will enable us to continue delivering our ambitious investment programmes across both brands, supporting upgrades to the existing estates and adding new sites to the portfolio, to the benefit of millions of customers.

“Butlin’s is in a strong position to take advantage of the continued growth in the UK staycation market, and I have no doubt it will continue to flourish. We wish everyone there every success for the future.”

Paul Harris, on behalf of the Harris Family Trusts, commented: “We are delighted to reaffirm our love for Butlin’s and once again be the new owners of this great brand. We look forward to working alongside the Butlin’s leadership team as they strive to deliver their strategic plan for the business and help them accelerate their investment plans to give our Butlin’s guests an even better holiday experience.”

Development focus

Bourne Leisure’s group CEO Paul Flaum, added: “I am immensely proud of what Butlin’s has achieved over the past few years, continuing to deliver Billy Butlin’s vision of family fun. It has been a privilege to work with the Butlin’s management team and I would like to thank both the Bourne and Butlin’s teams for their commitment and contribution to this great British institution over so many years. We wish the whole Butlin’s team the very best of luck.

“Everyone at Bourne is now excited to focus on developing and growing our brilliant Haven and Warner brands. We have a tremendous opportunity, building on our success to date and working together with Blackstone, to create the most loved holiday and holiday home brands in the UK. I’d like to thank all the teams in Bourne, Haven and Warner for their outstanding commitment and ongoing support in delivering our Bourne mission, to give our Warner and Haven guests and holiday homeowners a great time with memories that last a lifetime.”

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