The $1bn purchase of Regent Seven Seas by Apollo Management demonstrates that private equity remains a significant presence in the travel and tourism space.
It also divides the ownership of the fledgling Regent brand between the new masters at the cruise ship and privately-owned hospitality giant Carlson. But it may also be a sign that the disparate interests of Carlson will be brought into focus.
Carlson chairman and CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson said in a statement: “As owners of the Regent brand, we remain committed to expanding its scope and success both on land and at sea.”
Bjorn Gullaksen has been made president of the Regent Luxury Group by Carlson. He will also continue in his existing role as head of the managed hotels and resorts in the Americas which puts him in charge of 29 full-service and select serve properties.
Apollo has been aggressively consolidating the cruise ship space in the past year. It bought a 50% stake in NCL Corp for $1bn in April having paid $850m for Oceania Cruises in February. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania will be put together under the Prestige Cruise Holdings umbrella and NCL will continue to be held separately.
No financial details of the latest cruise deal were revealed but presumably Apollo is confident about getting debt funding. This is contrasting news to the deal by aAim to buy 19 former Queens Moat Houses properties for £400m or its £200m stab at Kew Green.
Both deals are not thought to have collapsed with all sides declaring that the situation is one of delay rather than termination.
Meanwhile, interest is gathering in what Carlson will do with the cash from its cruise ships. It is one of the 10 biggest hotel companies in the world with more than 960 hotels and 146,000 rooms under its five brands (Regent, Radisson, Park Plaza, Country Inn and Park Inn).
But in room numbers it actually went backwards last year as it grappled with a leadership succession crisis. Curtis Nelson, son of Marilyn, was fired from his position as chief operating officer from where he had been seen as a shoe-in for CEO.
While there are no signs that the company has yet lined-up a replacement for Marilyn Curtis Nelson, perhaps the deal with Apollo will give the company sufficient firepower to pursue growth in its hotel operations again.