Auckland-based private equity firm Evergreen Partners has bought a majority stake in New Zealand Fine Touring Group.
The deal for an undisclosed sum sees NZFT’s previous majority owners and founders – Wanaka-based David and Kerry Kettle and Auckland’s Chris Sutton and Meagan Evans – retain just under 40% of the company.
Evergreen is using its $66m Evergreen Partners No. 3 LP fund to take a 59.51% stake in NZFT. The fund seeks to deploy between $5m-$15m into businesses and its investment in NZFT is expected to be near the higher end of that band, given NZFT said it had 15,000 customers in 2018 and generated sales of around $40m.
NZFT said the new money would be used to fund the business and support expansion as well as being partly realised by the previous majority owners. Chris Sutton and Dave and Kerry Kettle are to continue in the business.
The Wanaka-based inbound tour operator was established in 2004 and specialises in customised self-drive FIT and independent coach tours. It invested heavily in the sector three years ago when it bought Auckland-based Discover NZ and Thrifty Tours NZ from Tranzit Group and now operates eight consumer brands and a wholesale arm, nzsidekick.
Dave Kettle said NZFT had started reaching out to possible investors last year and the deal with Evergreen marked the culmination of months of due diligence.
“We were talking to a number of potential partners, including two from trade, but the team from Evergreen were head and shoulders above,” said Kettle.
He added that NZFT was interested in growing by acquisition in NZ “for the right fit” and Australia was also an obvious territory to expand in.
Evergreen’s Tony Batterton said it was the firm’s first foray into tourism and that NZFT’s systems and entrepreneurial spirit had caught its attention.
“We have a lot of confidence in New Zealand tourism longterm and NZ Fine Touring are well placed to take advantage,” he said.
Batterton and fellow Evergreen partner Simon Plowman are to join the NZFT board alongside Dave Kettle and Chris Sutton. An independent chairman is expected to be announced shortly.
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