European Boating Holidays

  • Deal type MBI
  • Sector Leisure & Consumer Services
  • Year 2006
  • Status realised
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In July 2006, we led the simultaneous acquisition of Locaboat, the largest independent operator of European inland waterway boating holidays, and Cardinal Cruisers, a specialist operator focused on the German market, in a £30 million buy-in and development capital investment.

This transaction established European Boating Holidays (“EBH”), which was created to take advantage of the growing European boating holiday market. EBH is the largest independent operator in the European market.

We backed Keith Gregory, owner and founder of Cardinal Cruisers, who has over 35 years experience of successfully running European boating holiday businesses including 10 years as Chief Executive of Crown Blue Line, to lead the business.

Locaboat has been providing European boating holidays for over 30 years, operating a fleet of more than 340 boats from 18 bases across France, Germany, Holland, Ireland and Italy. The Locaboat fleet operates the distinctive ‘Penichette’ traditional continental barge style boat, which is unique to Locaboat. Cardinal has a fleet of around 45 high specification boats operating mainly on the lakes and rivers of Germany. Both businesses are characterised by a loyal customer base and a high level of direct bookings.

Leisure & consumer services is one of our core sectors and we were attracted to the opportunity to back an experienced management team in creating a business with critical mass and a market leading position in a highly attractive and defined niche.

Post investment, EBH has benefited from a high level of repeat bookings and the growing trend towards activity based holidays. Since the buy-in, the business has made one bolt-on acquisition and has expanded into new countries such as Poland.

In January 2012, we realised our investment in EBH, selling its operations to a French syndicate-backed management buy-in, led by Serge Naim and financed by Avenir Entreprise and AMS Industries. The realisation was the sixth exit from our first fund.

To discuss European Boating Holidays in more detail, please contact Richard Caston.