Duke Street will buy Great Rail Journeys

Duke Street will acquire UK-based Great Rail Journeys, a provider of escorted rail vacations, from ECI. No financial terms were disclosed.


London, 2 July 2018:Duke Street, the UK based mid-market private equity firm, today announces that it will acquire Great Rail Journeys (‘GRJ’), the world’s leading provider of escorted rail holidays, from ECI, the UK growth focused mid-market private equity firm. The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

York based Great Rail Journeys offers almost 400 itineraries to over 50 countries globally. GRJ caters for a growing demographic group of culturally interested 55+ year old travellers who typically prioritise travel spend within their household budgets. Popular itineraries include a tour of India’s “Golden Triangle”, exploring the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express and an iconic journey across Africa from Dar es Salaam to Cape Town. Last year, over 50,000 customers enjoyed a GRJ holiday and the Company is proud that over half of its business each year comes from its database.

ECI invested in GRJ in March 2013 to help the company build on its strong market position and develop new areas for growth. Over the last five years GRJ has performed strongly, tapping into new source markets for its rail tours including Australia and more recently the US, following the establishment of an office in New York in 2017. The business has also just launched, for summer 2019, a unique and highly differentiated rail based premium river cruise offering which builds upon very strong pre-existing demand for such holidays from within its customer database.

Duke Street plans to support the existing management team, led by Peter Liney, to develop the business’ rail and cruise offerings further, both in the UK and internationally, building on their significant experience in the leisure sector. Following the acquisition, Charles Gurassa will be appointed as Chairman. As well as extensive experience of the travel sector gathered during his executive career, Charles’ current non-Executive board roles include Chairman of Channel 4, Deputy Chairman of Easyjet and Senior Independent Director at Merlin Entertainments.

Tom Salmon, Partner at Duke Street, said:
“Our experience of backing market leaders in growing segments of the European leisure sector makes Great Rail Journeys a very exciting investment proposition. It is an outstanding business which delivers very high quality service to its clients. Having known Peter Liney for a number of years, we are looking forward to working with him, Charles Gurassa and the wider team to continue to grow the business both in the UK and internationally.”
Chris Watt, Managing Partner at ECI, commented:

“We are pleased to announce the sale of Great Rail Journeys to Duke Street. Today’s deal adds to our strong track record in helping travel companies to grow and realise their full potential.

This has been a tremendously successful and enjoyable partnership working with Peter Liney and his team. Since 2013, Great Rail Journeys has achieved a huge amount with ECI’s support and today is the world’s leading company in the escorted rail holiday sector with an exciting future ahead of it.”

Peter Liney, CEO of Great Rail Journeys, said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with Duke Street. The team very quickly demonstrated a clear understanding of our business, and their experience both of growing businesses in the US and of river cruising was highly attractive to us. After five great years of working with ECI, who have helped us to internationalise the business, add new product lines, grow our profits and develop our management team, we are very excited to embark on the next chapter of our story with Duke Street.”

Great Rail Journeys was advised by Duff & Phelps (corporate finance), Travers Smith (legal) PwC (commercial) and Deloitte (financial and tax). Duke Street was advised by Harris Williams (corporate finance), Ropes & Gray (legal) and Alvarez & Marsal (financial and tax).

About Duke Street
Duke Street is a leading operationally focused European mid-market buyout group. Founded in 1988, it invests across four sectors: consumer, healthcare, services and industrials. Duke Street has a proven model of value creation by successfully transforming businesses through implementing operational change and buy-and-build, having made approximately 60 bolt-on acquisitions for its portfolio companies.

Over the past 12 months, Duke Street has completed investments in TeamSport, the UK’s largest indoor go-karting operator and A-ROSA, the leading German river cruise operator, as well as generating a 5x return on the sale of its investment in Baywater Healthcare.


About ECI
ECI Partners is the partner of choice for dynamic, mid-sized growth businesses in the UK. We have an unrivalled track record in this space:
· Raised ten funds over our 42-year history
· Realised 105 exits since 1990
· Generated an average IRR of 36% since 1990

Over the last twenty years, ECI has built up an impressive track record of private equity investing in the UK travel sector. GRJ is the firm’s latest successful exit in a long line of prior investments in this sector including CarTrawler (online car rental distribution platform), Reed & Mackay (premium business travel management company) and Laterooms.com (online hotel bookings site).

Our investment focus
With offices in London and Manchester, we invest in management buyouts, buy-ins and acquisition finance deals of growth companies valued between £20 million and £150 million. We focus on technological and market disruption as well as long-term structural trends in the business & financial services, TMT, and consumer sectors.
ECI Partners currently manages over £1 billion on behalf of our institutional investors.

Learn more at www.ecipartners.com