The award-winning heritage US destination specialist, Bon Voyage Tours and Travels Limited, has served British holidaymakers since 1979. In early 2022, the company appointed Ian Finlay to its board to provide strategic advice, and build on the brand’s long-established legacy. By June, Bon Voyage was trading 25% up on 2019.
"The participation of Ian and Stewart has proved highly beneficial. Their grasp of what makes businesses succeed is sharp and focused and has brought out the best in the existing management team. We are confident that the next step will be a successful sale."
Alan Wilson, Chairman, Bon Voyage
The Teach and Travel Group
TATG is a leading provider of online TEFL qualifications. In 2020, Firebird provided the TATG management team with advice leading to a successful MBO. Ian Finlay joined the board as Chair, providing support, strategic advice and challenge. In early 2021, Firebird approached a Private Equity backed competitor and achieved an exit for the Management with an increase in value of more than 16x their initial investment.
Sale to Private Equity
"Ian and Stewart’s advice was invaluable throughout the process of acquiring and selling TATG: from putting together our initial offer, to management advice and negotiating the deal. I am delighted with the result which I sincerely believe is a brilliant outcome for the management team and the company."
Gordon Mathie, MD and Owner, TATG
London-based company Travel Editions was established in 1994 for “travellers, not tourists” with a wide range of culture-themed breaks. In summer 2022, on the way towards their 30th anniversary in business, the founders appointed Ian Finlay as a non-executive director, to instigate a period of new growth.
"Ian's expert input and insights have been invaluable from the off, beginning with his rigorous Business Review. His approach is meticulous and thoroughly amiable, and I can see we are set to make strides on an exciting upwards trajectory. We greatly look forward to working with him on the board."
John Dryden, Director, Travel Editions
Caledonian Travel/ Mobeus Equity Partners
In early 2021, Firebird was engaged by the management of Caledonian Travel and Mobeus Private Equity to conduct Commercial Due Diligence prior to Mobeus’s multi-million pound investment in the UK breaks specialist. The team conducted extensive interviews and research into the strategy, tactics and performance of the company - creating a report, and advising on a multi-million pound investment. The transaction was successfully completed in late March 2021.
Commercial Due Diligence Review
"It was a pleasure to work with the Firebird Partnership team whose in depth travel sector experience resulted in them delivering a clear and concise due diligence report with sound commercial insights within an efficient timeframe."
Greg Blin, Investment Director, Mobeus
McCabe takes travellers all over the world, with particular expertise in the Holy Land and Oberammergau Passion Plays. Firebird worked with the McCabe management team to acquire the company from the founders. Following the MBO, Ian Finlay joined the board of McCabe, where he has provided strategic advice and support that has led the business to increase its product range, diversify its market, and improve its gross margins.
"McCabe Pilgrimages has established an enviable reputation and leading position in the pilgrimage tours market. We are delighted to have Firebird's support and are confident that Ian and Stewart's expertise will help us to build on our success."
Paul Ellerby, Director, McCabe
Portman was a top 10 UK TMC with a team of 400 across the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. Steve was recruited as CEO by Vision Capital in October 2014 to lead the turnaround of the business and then support its sale. Following the roll out of a new booking system with access to global content, and a new internal engagement programme, Portman won Best UK TMC and Best Technology awards in 2016.
The change programme saw costs reduced through supplier renegotiations and right sizing, and a refreshed business strategy launched. EBITDA was increased by 27% in 2015. New business sales, the revitalised M&E business, and VIP Leisure, all saw double digit growth. The company was successfully sold in late 2016, and Steve stayed on to support the business integration and the sale of Portman’s investment in Radius, a global TMC, in early 2017.
The Appointment Group
TAG is a £200m turnover travel management company operating globally from locations in the UK, US and Australia. They dominate the market for the provision of travel services to the music and entertainment industry. Stewart worked with TAG for nearly 10 years and provided advice on numerous acquisitions as well as general ad hoc strategic advice and guidance.
The business was sold in 2018 to Apiary Capital. The sale price represented a multiple of 8-9x EBITDA.
The sale process considered both trade and PE acquirers on a global basis.
Stewart supported Ian to raise private equity and senior debt to buy Travel Class, with Steve then joining as Chair.
Ian created and executed an ambitious growth strategy including the introduction of new sites and the reinvigoration of both the sales process and distribution channels. Alongside these initiatives product pricing was reviewed, and the product further differentiated.
Significant revenue progression resulted, along with pricing and yield improvements driving an enhanced gross margin. The business was sold to a trade buyer 15 months after the initial investment, returning 3.5x money to the private equity investor.
Specialist Tours was a Newco created to acquire a number of niche specialists in the escorted tours market.
Ian identified the first acquisition target and, with Stewart’s help, raised private equity funding to finance the deal. Stewart then joined the Board as a NED. Operations, Sales and Marketing teams were fully restructured and two bolt-on acquisitions were made.
Rapid growth was made possible by the above changes. One of the acquisitions gave the business an American footprint, with the US quickly becoming a key driver of growth. The business was sold 2 years after investment, delivering a 3.2x return on money with EBITDA having grown by more than 250% over the period.