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Gowling WLG advises on sale of majority stake in Forest Holidays Group to Phoenix Equity Partners

21 December 2017

Gowling WLG's Corporate, Finance and Tax team has advised the existing shareholders of long-standing client Forest Holidays on a further management buy-out, led by Phoenix Equity Partners and supported by existing lead investor and Gowling WLG client Lloyds Development Capital.

The acquisition sees Phoenix join existing shareholders including long-term Forest Holidays partner the Forestry Commission. The Group operates cabin sites on the Public Forest Estate. The mid-market private equity firm also joins existing shareholder LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group (committed to investing £1.2 billion in UK businesses over the next three years), with whom  Gowling WLG have an established and long-standing relationship, including advising on their investment in Forest Holidays in 2012.

Following the completion of the transaction for an undisclosed value, the Forestry Commission, LDC and the management team will each retain minority stakes in the company which owns and operates nearly 600 eco-sensitive cabins and treehouses on nine sites across Britain.

International law firm Gowling WLG has worked closely with Forest Holidays for a number of years, advising on a wide range of corporate, banking and property related matters. This most recent deal, led by Corporate, M&A & Capital Markets partner Chris Towle, and assisted by associate Charlotte Pitt, senior associate Stephen Bowman, and trainee solicitor Eliza Summerfield, is the most significant in the client's history.

Partner Chris Towle, said: "Having worked with the Forest Holidays team for several years, including in relation to the LDC led MBO in 2012, it was fantastic to be part of this next stage in the Company's journey. The growth achieved by Forest Holidays Group over the last five years is testament to the strategy, commitment and vision of the management team - and indeed the support provided by LDC - and we are excited to support the team in achieving their next period of growth with new investor Phoenix Equity Partners fully onboard"

The Corporate, Finance and Tax team was also supported on the transaction by Gowling WLG Real Estate director Joe Morris, Banking and Finance director Navin Prabhakar and associate Richard Crawley and by Tax senior associate Tom Rank.

Associate Charlotte Pitt, said: "This deal showcases a great cross-firm effort, with experts from a variety of disciplines pulling together to assist the client in achieving their overall objectives as seamlessly and effectively as possible"

The deal will help accelerate the development of new and existing eco-friendly holiday locations, continuing the growth of Forest Holidays, with plans in place to open five new sites over the next five years (starting with the development of new sites in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons).

Bruce McKendrick, chief executive of Forest Holidays, said: "I am convinced that the alignment of existing shareholders, coupled with the catalyst of Phoenix's investment, will create a fabulous opportunity to deliver the next phase of the company's growth."

Gowling WLG's 100-strong Corporate, Finance and Tax team specialises in delivering high value and complex private equity transactions, mergers and acquisitions and other corporate matters.


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