North West based entrepreneur John Morphet, who started his leisure business with a caravan site on his parents’ farm near Carnforth, has sold nine of his UK leisure parks to Legal & General Ventures, a leading private equity firm.
The disposal will enable Mr Morphet to focus on his international interests and building on his most recent UK acquisition, Billing Aquadrome.
John Morphet, founder of South Lakeland Caravans Limited, commented: “Having built the South Lakeland Caravan brand from scratch I had taken it as far as I could by driving up the quality of all the leisure parks to the highest standard possible. My focus now is to develop my upmarket business interests in the Caribbean and Europe as well as developing some more imaginative concepts for leisure parks elsewhere under the Pure Leisure brand.”
Nick Dodd, Pure Leisure’s Group finance director, added: “The divestment of the more mature parks in the portfolio presents the Group with a real opportunity to build on its recently established presence in the Midlands through further acquisition, as well as focussing on delivering the significant value offered by its overseas investments. We wish Legal & General Ventures, Graham and the team the very best of luck in taking the South Lakeland Caravan business forward.”
In March, Pure Leisure acquired Billing Aquadrome in Northampton, in a multi-million pound deal. The 235-acre parkland site, which provides pitches for 2,000 static and touring caravans, is one of the largest independently owned parks in the UK. It offers an extensive range of leisure facilities, including a jet ski lake, fishing, licensed bars and a variety of entertainments. As part of the deal, Pure Leisure has also retained South Lakeland Leisure Village - a complete leisure resort located near Carnforth, close to the Southern Lake District.
The Group’s international leisure interests include the prestigious Royal Westmoreland resort on the west coast of Barbados where Mr Morphet has already built 23 new luxury villas to add to the 150 homes set in beautifully landscaped gardens around a championship golf course. Sporting celebrities, including Gary Lineker, Ian Woosnam, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff and Rio Ferdinand, have homes on the complex, where prices range from US $1.5 million to over US $10 million.
As well as property development opportunities, the villa rental business at Royal Westmoreland is also proving to be a Barbados leader, providing exclusive accommodation to predominantly UK holidaymakers at the luxury end of the market. Oscar nominee Keira Knightley and pop icon Jamelia are amongst visitors to this holiday paradise.
The Group also has leisure parks in Marbella and Cyprus.
John Morphet was advised on the disposal by a team from the Manchester office of KPMG Corporate Finance led by Christian Mayo, with legal advice being provided by a team from the Manchester office of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, led by Stephen Devlin and Michael Harcom.
Commenting on the deal, Christian Mayo, KPMG Corporate Finance said: “We are delighted to have been involved in such a high profile North West deal. I am confident that this is an excellent result which offers John an exciting platform to further develop his other business interests.”
Stephen Devlin, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary added: “We have worked with John on several transactions over the last few years and are delighted to have advised him on this major project.”
Commenting on the investment, Bill Priestley, Managing Director at LGV, said:
"We are delighted to have acquired South Lakeland Caravans which continues LGV’s focus on the leisure industry, one of our core sectors. We have had a successful experience with caravan parks in the past, having invested in Bourne Leisure, and are looking forward to working with Graham, and the management team to develop the business further. The parks are unique assets, in some of the most picturesque areas of the country.”
For further information please contact Vicki Baxter or Joanne Fletcher-Wall at Bell Pottinger North on 01625 506444 or by e-mail: