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Two of the travel industry’s most innovative entrepreneurs are banding together to buy Abercrombie & Kent, a leading purveyor of high-end travel experiences from round-the-world private jet tours to African safaris and villa vacation rentals.
A&K founder Geoffrey J.W. Kent and Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio said they have reached an agreement to jointly acquire 100% of the Abercrombie & Kent Group of Companies S.A. Zhonghong, a troubled Chinese conglomerate.
It’s the second big deal for Lefebvre who last year agreed to sell 66% of Silversea Cruises, which he founded in 1994, to Royal Caribbean International. At the time, a press release stated the purchase price of the equity being acquired was approximately $1 billion. It said Lefebvre could qualify for an estimated contingent consideration of approximately 472,000 RCL shares, payable upon achievement of certain 2019-2020 performance metrics. Based on the current price of the stock, that could mean another $55 million. No price was disclosed for the A&K acquisition.
Lefebvre is using his Heritage Group as the acquisition vehicle. According to the release announcing the deal, Heritage group will own 85% of Abercrombie & Kent and Geoffrey Kent 15%. Geoffrey Kent will continue to be Chairman and CEO of the operating company, while Manfredi Lefebvre will become Chairman of Abercrombie & Kent Holding.
Kent broke into tourism growing up in Rhodesia, now Zambia when he decided instead of taking visitors on hunting safaris he wanted to protect the animals through photographic trips that would show of the splendor of the African continent’s wildlife in its native habitat. Even in his early days, he was known for innovating by bringing modern amenities such as refrigerators.
Today, the company covers virtually every out of the way spot on the globe and caters to both the super-rich and merely affluent with vacations ranging from group tours to tailor-made trips for UHNW families. He also popularized private jet tours using a reconfigured Boeing 757 with just 50 seats that turn into flat beds.
Kent is known for leading some of his high-profile trips. In some cases, it has taken him several years to arrange a new journey. For an eight-day trip to Palau for aboard the superyacht Saluzi, his team had to negotiate with local tribal leaders for special permissions. Know for his connections to the worldwide elite, including Royals and Presidents, Kent pioneered the idea of taking his guests to places normally closed to tour groups or for surprise meetings with culturally important figures.
By the same token, Lefebvre is known in the cruise industry as one of the visionaries who has made the luxury segment one of its most popular and fastest growing segments. His family had owned Sitmar Cruises before it was acquired by P&O in 1988, now part of Carnival Corporation & PLC.
In launching Silversea, Lefebvre pushed the nascent luxury segment forward by focusing on fine dining, a relaxed environment and exotic itineraries. The line has earned dozens of various awards for its ships and service. Under his guidance, Silversea became one of the first large cruise lines to dive into expedition cruises, a fast-growing segment of the industry taking guests to far-flung places such as the Arctic and Bangladesh where it took three years of advance work to plan the trip. The company is widely credited for helping drive a luxury element into the glut of new vessels due to launch in the adventure segment.
While there was no announcement about plans for new products, an insider says there is an interest in river cruises. A&K does currently offer them, however, it charters boats from third-party operators.
Both Kent and Lefebvre have known each other for several decades and both sit on the World Travel & Tourism Council, an advocacy group for the wide spectrum of the travel sector that lobbies governments to provide traveler friendly policies. They were also business partners having acquired the MV Explorer in 1992.
“Abercrombie & Kent is the finest luxury travel company in the world, and I am honored to be able to partner with Geoffrey Kent to help this remarkable company continue its record growth,” said Lefebvre in a prepared statement. Kent added, “I am very excited to be working with Manfredi. I cannot think of a better or more experienced partner for the next phase of A&K’s growth.”
The closing is expected to be completed later in the year, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
February 12, 2019 at 11:49AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs