PHD Private Equity invests in 1st Class Holidays

PHD Private Equity has invested 2.5 million pounds (US $3.7 million) in 1st Class Holidays. 1st Class is a tour operator. The 1st Class deal is the first transaction by PHD from its second private equity fund, which closed at 20 million pounds earlier this year.


PHD Private Equity, the private equity fund focused on investing in “scale up” business opportunities has invested £2.5 million in 1st Class Holidays – the UK’s leading provider of luxury tailor-made holidays to Canada based in Manchester.

The £2.5 million investment will accelerate the growth ambitions of the company and will provide an exit for Finance Director and shareholder Henri Treffers.

The business will continue to be led by Paul Ainsworth and Sharon Mason, who originally founded the business in 1996. The company, currently with a turnover of £16m, is based at Trafford House in, Manchester, and employs 36 people. It offers an extensive selection of luxury tailor-made holidays focused on Canada, North America, New Zealand and Australia. 1st Class Holidays has won “Favourite Tour Operator” a record 13 times at the British Annual Canada Travel Awards.

The deal was led by PHD Equity partners Andy Dodd and Craig Richardson and director Tony Meakin.

Paul Ainsworth commented “Over the last twenty years we have built a high quality service offering and established a strong market position particularly in Canada, The backing from PHD and its partnership approach will give us an even stronger platform to accelerate our plans and take our business to a new level. It is great to be working with an enthusiastic team who share our conviction that our business can be scaled up.”

Andy Dodd, partner at PHD Equity, said: “We are investing in a well established travel business, operating in the luxury tailor-made end of the market, and backing a remarkable management team who have created their own niche in Canada. We are looking forward to working with Paul and Sharon to meet their growth plans for the business.”

The deal is the first transaction by PHD from its 2nd private equity fund, which had its final close earlier this year at £20 million.

James Dow, Managing Partner of PHD Equity Partners said: “Our investment in 1st Class meets our aspirations to invest on a partnership basis with good management teams to scale up businesses with discrete competitive advanagtages.”

Jonathan Robinson of DWF provided legal advice and DSW Transaction Services provided financial due diligence, RSM provided taxation advice for PHD Equity Partners.

The vendors were advised by Benchmark International, BPR Heaton and Ward Hadaway.