Thu, 26 Oct 2023 | ADMINISTRATION
The holiday park and caravan industry has long been a staple of British leisure, offering families and retirees alike a slice of the great outdoors without the need for a passport. But as with any industry, it's not immune to the ebbs and flows of economic tides, nor the intrigue of high-stakes business dealings. The recent announcement of 29 holiday park assets being put on the market by Christie & Co, on behalf of the administrators of parts of the RoyaleLife Group, is a testament to this (list of sites below).
Phoenix from the ashes
Robert Bull, the majority owner of RoyaleLife, is no stranger to adversity. Having declared bankruptcy in 2016, he managed to turn his fortunes around in a remarkable way. By 2022, Bull had built a £4-billion business empire, specialising in selling pre-fabricated dwellings to the over-45 demographic. This meteoric rise earned him a spot on The Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated net worth of £1.9 billion.
The shadow of controversy
However, the RoyaleLife saga took a dark turn when a company named Sines Parks Holdings Limited, majority owned by Fred Doe (formerly known as Maurice Sines), sought to put several RoyaleLife units into administration. Doe's alleged affiliations with the notorious Irish Kinahan gang added a layer of intrigue and uncertainty to the unfolding drama. This move by Sines Parks triggered a domino effect, with lenders rushing to protect their interests, leading to the appointment of administrators for various RoyaleLife entities.
The allure of the caravan and leisure park industry
Despite the challenges faced by RoyaleLife, the caravan and leisure park industry remains an attractive proposition for institutional investors. The acquisition of Bourne Leisure by funds managed by Blackstone Inc. and CVC Capital Partners' purchase and subsequent merger of Away Resorts and Aria Resorts are prime examples of this interest. Earlier this year, holiday homes giant Willerby posted a record £217 million turnover and a quadrupling of profits to £15.1 million for 2022, buoyed by the continued popularity of UK holidays and short breaks. It seems the appeal of the British countryside and coast has never been greater.
RoyaleLife's financial quagmire
However, the financial intricacies surrounding RoyaleLife are complex. With debts amounting to at least £1.3 billion from various institutions and the intervention of distressed-debt investing giant Oaktree Capital Management, the company's financial future has been under scrutiny.
The pandemic's impact, coupled with the intervention of Sines Parks and Fred Doe, further complicated matters. The latter's involvement, stemming from a failed asset purchase, has been particularly detrimental, leading to a series of legal battles and administrative actions.
The golden road beckons
For potential investors and stakeholders in the holiday park sector, the RoyaleLife situation presents both challenges and opportunities. The assets being put on the market represent tangible, hard assets, offering security in an otherwise turbulent scenario.
While the future of RoyaleLife remains uncertain, one thing is clear: the holiday park and caravan sector remains a viable and attractive industry. Distressed sales, such as the assets being offered by Christie & Co, provide an opportunity for new players to enter the market or for existing entities to expand their portfolios.
The list of 29 freehold assets located across the UK - for sale as individual units, in subgroups or as a portfolio - includes:
Carter Hall, Lancashire
Croft Court, Lancashire
Stalmine Hall Court, Lancashire
Warrington Court, Cheshire
Royal Ranksborough Hall, Leicester
Sherwood Court, Notts
Dolbeare Park, Cornwall
Gaverick Court, Devon
Oaktree Court, Devon
Stroud Heights, Gloucestershire
Regency Court, Devon
Manor Farm Court, Dorset
New Forest Court, Dorset
New Forest Glades, Dorset
New Forest Glen, Dorset
Royal Heights, Dorset
Silver Mists (Land West of Hurn Rd), Dorset
Lodge at Silver Mists, Dorset
Village Way, Isle of White
Fort Holiday Park, Isle of White
Rowlands Wait Touring Park/Rochester Court, Hampshire
Wickham Court, Hampshire
Frensham Court, Hampshire
Solent Grange, Hampshire
Former Head Office, Fareham Hampshire
Dunton Park, Essex
Oakwood Court, Surrey
Reculver Gardens, Kent
Also read: UK hotel M&A remains resilient
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