Cruise.co.uk has secured new investment from private equity firm Risk Capital Partners, which will become the specialist agency’s majority shareholder.
The deal represents the second private equity investment in the company, after a management buyout from previous owner Carnival Corporation was backed by venture capitalists Forward Group in 2007.
Risk Capital Partners was founded in 2001, and looks to invest between £3 and £15 million in UK-based companies. Its chairman is Luke Johnson, a former chairman of both Channel 4 Television and Pizza Express.
The company has not disclosed the value of its majority stake, but said it would add impetus to Cruise.co.uk’s plans to expand in the UK and overseas, particularly in the Irish and Australian markets. Cruise.co.uk last year handled 65,000 customers and generated revenue of £64 million.
The new investment has been secured by cruise.co.uk managing director Seamus Conlon, who said the company had looked for an entrepreneurial VC with a proven track record of developing companies.
Conlon said: “We have spent some time getting to know Risk Capital Partners and are excited they have decided to invest in our business.
“Their acumen and results in the leisure space will be of huge value to us and we look forward to their expertise helping to shape the future of the business. We are well placed to take advantage of these shifts, and help customers and staff get together to share their experiences.”
Johnson added: “As more people research online, leading websites have engaged with users and harnessed social media techniques.
“Cruise.co has a wealth of content in addition to market leading prices. There is as a great opportunity to replicate this model into international markets where cruising and online research are growing rapidly.”
Since the 2007 buyout led by Conlon and a change of name from Victoria Travel to cruise.co.uk, the specialist agency has grown rapidly with a focus on user-generated content.
Its main website now includes more than 200,000 reviews and opinions, and a database of more than 200,000 questions and answers related to the sector.
It also acquired the cruises.co.uk domain name, which at the time was the most expensive URL in the UK, and has developed that site as a forum with more than 85,000 members.