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5 2


Counsellors hail Vitruvian buyout


Amie Keeley and Juliet Dennis


Travel Counsellors has pledged to invest in new technology to help its 1,700 agents “work smarter” and commit more time to clients following a secondary management buyout deal.


Vitruvian Partners backed


Travel Counsellors in the buyout from Equistone Partners Europe. The deal, which valued Travel Counsellors at a reported £250 million, spells the end of founder David Speakman and his wife Maureen’s involvement in the business, which he set up in 1994. A Travel Counsellors spokesman


said: “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the tools and support we provide our travel counsellors with so they can take the time to care for customers and grow their businesses with us. “We’re delighted Vitruvian will support the ongoing development of technology to help everyone in our community work smarter, more efficiently and have even more time to care for their clients.” Vitruvian Partners has


previously backed Skyscanner, JacTravel and OAG, as well as listed


takeaway food specialist Just Eat. Travel Counsellors agents


welcomed the deal and paid tribute to Speakman. Midlands-based Lisa Hillyard


was attracted to Travel Counsellors 20 years ago by Speakman’s frank business approach. She said: “I’m sad to see David go, he’s been pivotal to my career. But you can’t stand still in any business. This deal can only be positive.” Richard Thompson, based in Gloucestershire, called Speakman a “great visionary” and added: “No one is anything other than enthused about this deal. “The investors have bought into


this extraordinary culture.” Speakman and wife Maureen,


who have disposed of their final interest in the business, said: “We will always remain emotionally attached to all those who trusted in us and backed themselves.” In October 2014, Equistone


backed a management buyout led by chief executive Steve Byrne. Travel Counsellors’ statutory


turnover and profit has grown by an average of 17% and over 20% per annum respectively since the 2014 buyout, with annual total transaction values increasing by £130 million to £512 million.


‘Great


visionary’: Travel


Counsellors founder David


Speakman


Iain Baillie and a Carnival colleague fended off


knife-wielding attackers in London last week


Baillie fights off moped muggers


Lucy Huxley lucy.huxley@travelweekly.co.uk


A leading cruise executive has urged industry colleagues to be vigilant when holding meetings in outdoor city venues after fending off a gang of knife-wielding moped muggers.


UK managing director Iain


Baillie was reviewing footage for Carnival Cruise Line’s latest trade vlog at a pavement table outside a wine bar in Knightsbridge, London, when attackers struck. He and digital manager


Cameron Watling had just finished filming the ‘Quick Coffee with Carnival’ video for the line’s agent website in Hyde Park when four men approached on two mopeds. “One said ‘give us your watch’,” said Baillie, 41. “He repeated it, said ‘We’re serious’, then motioned his head downwards. I looked and two nine-inch knives were pressed against my ribs.” Baillie started to take off his


watch, a 40th birthday gift from his wife, but had second thoughts. Instead of handing it over, he put


it in his back pocket, picked up his chair and “shoved it against the attacker’s neck”. With one knifeman at bay, 6ft 4in


Watling, 26, threw a table at the other attacker as the muggers shouted “give us your watch, we’re going to stab you”. “A barman was thrown to the


ground,” Baillie added. “Furniture was flying around and glasses were smashing everywhere. Eventually, the knifemen fled on the back of their accomplices’ scooters.” Police were called to Motcomb


Street, at 2.50pm last Thursday. No arrests have been made. Baillie said: “The watch has real sentimental value. My first reaction was to give it over, but something changed. I’m pleased I didn’t lose it and no one got hurt, but it was a shock and has heightened my senses about the risks of having meetings outside or walking around in cities. I’d urge everyone to be more vigilant.” Comedian Michael McIntyre, host of the 2013 Globe Travel Awards, was robbed of his watch by two men on a moped with hammers in northwest London on Monday.


7 June 2018 travelweekly.co.uk 5 3 STORIES HOT


PICTURE: MATT SPRAKE


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