London, 26 October, 2018
Midlothian Capital Partners (“MCP”) and a consortium of investors have agreed to acquire HB Education Limited (“HB Education”) – the holding company for PGL – for a value of £467 million.
HB Education is the UK’s leading outdoor education and study travel group. The market leading company provides residential adventure and study trips for schools, youth organisations and young people through the PGL brand, along with educational travel tours for schools and further/higher education students through NST, EST and Studylink. In addition, Travelplus (Germany) offers language travel and gap year experiences.
The vendor was Cox & Kings, the longest established travel company in the world.
This is Midlothian’s third consumer sector deal in the past two years following the £210m acquisition of Dobbies Garden Centres from Tesco in 2016 and the £110m purchase of Park Leisure, the holiday home operator, in 2017.
MCP received financing support through funds managed by Ares Management Ltd. The existing HB Education management team will stay in post and plan to expand the business both in the UK and internationally. It currently owns 26 Regional Activity Centres in the UK, France, Spain and Australia.
The company was founded in the late 1950’s by Peter Gordon Lawrence, initially providing canoe trips on the River Wye. In 2007 it was acquired by Holidaybreak plc and merged with NST to create the leading experiential learning programme business in the UK. It was acquired by Cox & Kings in 2011.
Midlothian’s Neil Currie is Chairman-designate of HB Education. He said:
“HB Education is an industry-leading operator within both the residential outdoor activity and educational travel sectors. PGL is a much-loved brand among teachers and students and has created lasting, happy memories – including many among our own families.
We are delighted that the existing management team, led by CEO John Firth and CFO Peter Churchus, have agreed to remain with the company and partner with us. They have led HB Education impressively through its most successful growth period and their focus on customer satisfaction and team culture is a key reason for our interest in the group.”
Andrew Bracey of MCP, said:
“This transaction follows our recent acquisitions of Dobbies Garden Centres and Park Leisure and further demonstrates the strength of our network and operating model, as well as our ability to build close relationships with principals. PGL/HB Education adds another highly relevant and customer-focused business to our portfolio – crucial attributes within a rapidly changing consumer sector.”
Aidan Clegg of MCP, said:
“Cox & Kings have been excellent owners of the company, a pleasure to deal with and we look forward to continuing our relationship following the transaction.”
John Firth CEO of HB Education, said:
“We are delighted that MCP has been chosen as the next owner of our company. We feel that MCP’s values align strongly with those of our staff and customers and we look forward to partnering with them as we open a new chapter in our long history of excellence and growth.”
Mike Dennis, Co-Head European Credit at Ares, said:
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with MCP and HB Education on this transaction. This is our third transaction with MCP and based on their significant experience in related sectors through their existing portfolio investments, we are confident that MCP represents a strong and appropriate partner for the company as it enters the next phase of its development”
Peter Kerkar, Group CEO of C&K, said:
“We are delighted that the education business has found a home with Midlothian as we are certain that they will continue to invest and develop the education business.”
Advisers to MCP include: Rothschild (financial), Slaughter and May (legal), and EY (accounting and tax).
Advisors to Cox & Kings include: Eversheds Sutherland (legal) and Baird (financial) and Axis Capital
Advisers to Ares include: Dechert LLP (legal)
Nick Miles 07739 701634
James Olley 07974 982302
About Midlothian Capital Partners
Midlothian Capital Partners is a consumer-focused investment company. The three founders of MCP (Andrew Bracey, Aidan Clegg and Neil Currie) have more than 70 years combined experience in consumer facing businesses in corporate finance, private equity, research and business management. The three founders will all join the board of HB Education.
About Ares Management, L.P.
Ares Management, L.P. is a publicly traded, leading global alternative asset manager with approximately $121.4 billion of assets under management as of June 30, 2018 and 18 offices in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Since its inception in 1997, Ares has adhered to a disciplined investment philosophy that focuses on delivering strong risk-adjusted investment returns throughout market cycles. Ares believes each of its three distinct but complementary investment groups in Credit, Private Equity and Real Estate is a market leader based on assets under management and investment performance. Ares was built upon the fundamental principle that each group benefits from being part of the greater whole. For more information, visit www.aresmgmt.com.