Asda and Punch Pubs owners among suitors for £600m holiday camp chain Butlin’s

The owners of some of Britain’s most prominent leisure and retail businesses are among the suitors exploring takeover bids for Butlin’s, the chain of famous holiday camps.

Sky News has learnt that Fortress Investment Group, which owns Punch Taverns, and TDR Capital, one of the principal shareholders in Asda, are among the parties which submitted indicative offers for Butlin’s in the last few days.

City sources said on Wednesday that other parties had bid for the business too, with bankers suggesting that another offer may have come from KSL Capital Partners, a prolific investor in UK leisure assets.

Butlin’s is being sold by Bourne Leisure, which also trades under the Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels brands.

Image: Butlin’s is owned by Bourne Leisure

Bourne’s owner, the private equity giant Blackstone, appointed Rothschild last autumn to conduct an auction of Butlin’s after concluding that it did not fit with the rest of the group.

Blackstone bought Bourne just under 18 months ago in a deal valuing the group at about £3bn.

Butlin’s, which has three sites, is one of Britain’s best-known leisure brands.

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It was established in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who – according to its official history – “felt sorry for families staying in drab guest-houses with nothing much to do” during a trip to Barry Island.

He acquired a plot of land in Skegness, Lincolnshire, and opened the first eponymous resort, which is among those that still trade today.

In its heyday, Butlin’s operated from nine sites across the UK, entertaining 1m holidaymakers each year with knobbly knees competitions and glamorous granny contests.

Hundreds of staff across its resorts became known as Redcoats.

The brand became such an entrenched part of Britain’s popular consciousness that it provided the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!, the long-running BBC sitcom.

Its fortunes waned with the explosive growth of opportunities for Britons to holiday abroad, but has enjoyed a resurgence as the pandemic has fuelled a boom in staycations.

Butlin’s other sites today are at Minehead in Somerset and Bognor Regis, the traditional seaside town close to the South Downs National Park.

The surge in the domestic holidays market has spurred a deluge of corporate deals, with Blackstone itself having just been knocked out of a £2bn process to buy Parkdean Resorts.

Sun Communities, a New York-listed real estate investment trust, has paid £950m for Park Holidays, and a further £182m to buy Park Leisure, another operator in the sector.

Other recent deals in the sector have included the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners buying Away Resorts – the owner of well-known holiday parks such as Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight and Sandy Balls in the New Forest.

CVC subsequently combined Away Resorts with Aria, another operator.

Blackstone, Fortress and TDR all declined to comment.