Butlin’s owner is preparing to put it up for sale amid a boom in British stays, creating a potential bidding spree for the country’s best-known chain of holiday camps.
Sky News learned that Bourne Leisure, which also includes Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels, recently selected investment bankers to hold an auction of Butlins next year.
The move comes in less than 12 months since privately held Bourne Leisure sold a controlling stake in Blackstone, the private equity giant.
Butlin’s likely valuation on a sale was unclear this weekend, but bankers and private equity investors said there would be a “storm surge” of interest in acquiring the brand and its three locations.
The chain was founded in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who – according to its official story – “pityed families who lived in dreary guest houses and did not have much to do” while on a trip to Barry Island.
He purchased property in Skegness, Lincolnshire and opened the first resort of the same name, one of the three still traded today.
In its heyday, Butlin’s operated from nine locations across the UK, entertaining a million vacationers each year with knobbly contests and glamorous grandma contests.
Hundreds of employees at the resorts became known as redcoats.
The brand became so ingrained in the UK popular consciousness that it provided the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi !, the long-running BBC sitcom.
His fortunes dwindled with the explosion in opportunities for Britons to vacation abroad, but it has seen some resurgence recently.
Butlin’s other attractions today include Minehead in Somerset and Bognor Regis, the traditional coastal town near South Downs National Park.
The pandemic has sparked rapid growth in the number of stays and paved the way for a number of deals in the industry.
Earlier this month, Sun Communities, a New York-listed real estate mutual fund, paid £ 950 million for Park Holidays, well above original price expectations of its owners.
The Canadian owner of Parkdean Resorts, which is a major rival to Park Holidays by number of locations, has hired Morgan Stanley bankers to prepare a review of options that most observers expect will result in a sale over the next year will.
Other recent deals in the sector included the purchase of Away Resorts by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners – the owner of well-known holiday parks such as Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight and Sandy Balls in the New Forest.
CVC then connected Away Resorts with Aria, another operator.
Bourne Leisure, led by CEO Paul Flaum, reportedly decided that Butlin’s was subordinate to and therefore not the focus of its growth plans.
Rothschild is said to have been hired by Blackstone and Bourne to oversee the sale of Butlin.
The other big players in the sector are expected to consider offers for Butlin’s, although it may end up being sold on its own to a financial buyer.
Blackstone didn’t want to comment on Saturday.