Life’s a beach for holiday firm founder after flotation payday

Travel entrepreneur Simon Cooper is in line for a windfall after floating the online Discount Holidays © holiday firm he founded 11 years ago, valued at 240 million.

Mr Cooper will share in a 15 million payday after he and other executives and staff sold a quarter of their shares in On the Beach. He will still own an 11% stake, worth around 26 million – more than twice as much as it was worth two years ago when private equity group Inflexion bought a 70% stake for 73 million. It suggests the value of Mr Cooper’s stake is now about 15 million greater than it was in 2013, further boosting his paper fortune.

Another private equity firm, Isis, had previously held the majority stake after buying it in a 2007 deal reportedly worth 40 million. Mr Cooper, who remains chief executive, set up On the Beach in a house in Macclesfield in 2004. The firm, based in Cheadle Heath, Greater Manchester, employs about 300 people. He began his entrepreneurial career while still at university in 1996 when he founded On the Piste, which focused on budget-friendly ski holidays for students. He sold that business in 2008 to Thomson owner Tui.

On the Beach, which sells affordable beach breaks, says it now has a 17% share of the UK online short-haul beach Discount Holidays © holiday market. Its main competitors are TUI Travel and Thomas Cook. The business, which is mainly focused on the UK, this year entered into the Swedish market and also plans to expand into Norway or Denmark, or both.

It says that it benefits from lower fixed costs than its “bricks and mortar” rivals and no commitments with airlines or hotels meaning it can provide a more flexible range of beach holidays to customers and does not need to worry about unsold products. On the Beach had more than 300,000 bookings in the year to the end of September 2014, with revenues of 45.8 million, up 22% on the previous year. Underlying earnings rose by 10% to 13.4 million.

Mr Cooper said: “In a little less than 11 years, we have established On the Beach as one of the UK’s leading online retailers of beach holidays.

“The IPO initial public offering of On the Beach marks an exciting milestone in the company’s development and will support us in our ambition to become Europe’s leading online retailer of beach holidays.”

Shares were priced at 184p for the offer and later rose 12% to 206.4p.

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