Derbyshire holiday operator sold in mega deal

Derbyshire-based holiday operator Forest Holidays has been sold to Cheshire-based Sykes Holiday Cottages, an independent holiday cottage rental agency, in a nine-figure deal.

Forest Holidays is the owner and operator cabins set across Britain’s forests. Since the mid-1970s, Forest Holidays has invested over £100m into Britain’s forests. The firm has 12 forest locations with many in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in Scotland and opening later this year in the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

As part of the deal, Forest Holidays’ existing institutional investor group, which is led by Phoenix Equity Partners and includes LDC, will exit the business. Forestry England, Forestry and Land Scotland and Natural Resources Wales will divest their legacy minority stake.

Sykes’ provides access to over 22,500 holiday homes, is the UK’s fastest-growing holiday cottage rental agency. The business is backed by Vitruvian Partners.

The two businesses will be run independently by their existing leadership teams under a newly formed parent company.

Graham Donoghue, CEO of Sykes, said: “As the UK’s leading provider of woodland accommodation, Forest Holidays is the perfect complement to our existing holiday cottage rental business, offering our respective customers an unrivalled choice and quality of accommodation across a variety of settings. We’ve been impressed by what Bruce McKendrick and his team have achieved and are excited by our common purpose with a focus on environment, local and rural communities at the core of our businesses.”

He added: “It’s also a transformative acquisition for Sykes which creates a UK-focused multi-brand holiday group with market-leading technology, service and product. Looking ahead, we’re ideally placed to fly the flag for UK tourism and showcase the very best our islands have to offer from coast to country.”

Bruce McKendrick, CEO of Forest Holidays, said: “Forest Holidays has always sought to balance social, environmental and economic benefit. The benefits we bring to physical and mental well-being are more important than ever and in Sykes we have found a partner who shares this ethos. They also recognise the importance of our long-term partnership with the Forestry Commission and our shared objective to offer holidays that are good for people, good for nature and good for the environment. We are grateful to Phoenix and our other shareholders for helping us to build the business we have today.”

He added: “Graham Donoghue and his team’s commitment to a strong purpose is impressive and we are hugely excited by the opportunity to take this ambition forward together.”

David Bains, partner and head of East Midlands and East of England at LDC, added: “Forest Holidays is a real East Midlands success story. From their head offices in Derbyshire, Bruce and his team have sensitively developed the UK’s leading provider of cabin holiday experiences at some of the nation’s most astounding locations of natural beauty. We’re proud to have played a part supporting their expansion over the last 10 years.”

Sykes Holiday Cottages team was led by its corporate development team (Michaela Davies, Sophie Bullough and Joe Cross) and advised by Clearwater International (debt advice), Mayer Brown International (legal), FTI Consulting (tax and accounting) and Springboard Corporate Finance.

Forest Holidays was advised by Harris Williams (investment banking), Travers Smith (legal), Burness Paul (property) PwC (financial due diligence) L.E.K (commercial due diligence) and Intechnica (technical due dligence). Management were advised by Liberty CF (financial) and Eversheds Sutherland (legal & tax).

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