18th December 2015

PHD Equity Partners, 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 33 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 12 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 Partners, 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 Equity Partners from its third HNWI fund, which had its first close earlier this year at £16.5 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 advantages.”

Jonathan Robinson of DWF provided legal advice and Dow Schofield Watts Transaction Services provided financial due diligence for PHD Equity Partners.

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

PHD Equity Partners LLP is the fund management arm of the Dow Schofield Watts Group.  PHD Equity Partners invests in smaller established growing UK businesses with typical enterprise values of up to £10million, providing equity cheques of up to £4million.