The UK Center Parcs holiday resorts business has been sold to a Canadian investment firm in a £2.4bn deal.
Brookfield Property Partners, a Toronto-based company listed on the New York stock exchange, announced it was buying the UK holiday village company from its private-equity owners, Blackstone.
The sale price was not disclosed, although people close to the deal confirmed it was bought for more than £2.4bn. Brookfield topped rival bids from CVC Capital Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Center Parcs is the second high-profile acquisition for Brookfield in the UK this year, following the £2.6bn purchase of Canary Wharf financial district in collaboration with the Qatari Investment Authority.
Brookfield will take ownership of five Center Parcs sites in the UK, each consisting of holiday homes set in 400 acres of woodland, with activities ranging from archery to spa treatments. The company said it expected 2m guests this year. Center Parcs Europe will remain a separate business.
The first Center Parcs holiday village opened in a forest in the Dutch province of Limburg in 1967. The cottages – equipped with colour TV and central heating – were designed by the modernist architect Jaap Bakema, a leading member of the Team 10 architectural group, who was responsible for much of the redesign of postwar Rotterdam.
The concept arrived in the UK in 1987 when Center Parcs opened in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Soon after opening a second park in Elveden Forest, Suffolk, in 1989, the Dutch owners sold the UK business to Scottish & Newcastle brewers.
The holiday company fell into the hands of private equity firm Blackstone in 2006. Under Blackstone’s ownership, at least £100m was spent upgrading cottages, restaurants and facilities, helping lift occupancy rates to 97%.
The private equity company has nearly quadrupled its original investment, but has not disclosed figures.
Gerry Murphy, chairman of the Blackstone Group, said it had been an excellent investment.
The deal is a departure for Brookfield in the UK, which has so far concentrated its British investments on office buildings and warehouses. However, Brookfield is not new to the leisure industry and already owns hotels in Australia and North America, including resorts in Las Vegas and the Bahamas.
Ric Clark, chief executive officer of Brookfield Property Group, said the company saw “compelling opportunities to grow the business and enhance our investment returns” at Center Parcs.