neapolis, MN (January 29, 2008) - Minneapolis-based Carlson announced today that its Carlson Leisure Group, or "CLG," and its portfolio of leisure travel-related businesses will be acquired by CLG's management team, led by its President and CEO Michael Batt.
The transaction, part of Carlson's focus strategy to build its global brands, involves Carlson Leisure Group only. Carlson will retain its majority ownership stake in Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), the global leader specializing in business travel management. CWT also owns and operates leisure travel services throughout the U.S., Canada and other key countries worldwide. Carlson will continue to aggressively expand Carlson Wagonlit Travel globally with its partner, One Equity Partners.
Terms of the purchase agreement for the new venture will not be disclosed. The acquisition was completed on Monday, Jan. 28.
The new management company is now operating as Travel Acquisitions Group (TAG), and will continue to operate its current brands, including the Carlson Wagonlit Travel brand for a period of time, for the approximately 500 U.S.-based Carlson Wagonlit Travel franchisees, as well as with its wholly-owned retail travel agency locations.
“This is a win/win transaction. It allows Carlson to accelerate the growth of its global travel, hotel and restaurant brands, and it enables a proven management team, known and trusted by our franchisees, to seek new opportunities in the leisure space. Today’s markets require a focusing of human and financial resources. I am confident of a wonderful future for all of us,” said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Carlson chairman and chief executive officer.
TAG is purchasing all the travel assets and companies currently held within CLG. The business employs over 1,000 people directly with company-owned travel sales approaching $1 billion. Travel sales made within the various franchise groups involved are in excess of $5 billion. Combined cruise sales for the group are in excess of $500 million. Other franchised travel agency brands included under TAG’s umbrella are: Cruise Holidays, Results! Travel and SeaMaster Cruises. Other TAG brands include: All Aboard Travel, Carlson Destination Marketing Services, Connexions Loyalty Travel Solutions, CruiseDeals.com, Cruise Specialists, Fly4Less.com, Luxury Travel Network, Partners In Travel and SinglesCruise.com.
“Our team really believes in this business,” said Batt, chairman and chief executive officer of Travel Acquisitions Group. “We’ve all been extraordinarily fortunate and honored to work with Marilyn and the rest of our colleagues at Carlson. We’ve built an outstanding business together in the past 11 years, and I’m confident we can continue to grow our business in the new environment. Growth remains a critical part of our strategy, and we intend to continue our path to become one of North America’s leading travel companies.”
Under Carlson, Carlson Leisure Group grew from 960 locations in 1996 to more than 1,700 today. In addition, CLG company-owned operations had grown to sales approaching $1 billion, placing CLG in the top 15 of all U.S.-based travel agency companies.
“Carlson is confident that Mike and his team will take forward the culture that all of us developed together,” Nelson said.
Looking forward, Batt noted, “Emerging from a rich Carlson heritage, built upon strong values and integrity, we will continue that philosophy and also continue to look after our people. We will proudly carry on what we’ve learned at Carlson to continue making ours a great place for great people to do great work.”
Carlson’s history in the leisure travel industry can be traced back to one of the oldest travel agency organizations in the world – Ask Mr. Foster, America’s oldest travel agency network, founded in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1888. Carlson acquired Ask Mr. Foster in 1979, and changed its name to Carlson Travel Network in 1990.
In 1994, Carlson and Paris-based Wagonlit Travel formed Carlson Wagonlit Travel to focus on corporate travel management, leaving a wholly-owned Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates. In 1996, Carlson Leisure Group was formed, combining the Associate network and remaining Carlson Wagonlit Travel retail locations operating in the United States. Under Batt’s leadership, his team has grown the business to more than a dozen different brands, serving millions of customers throughout North America each year.