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DWF advises 1st Class Holidays on £2.5m investment from PHD Private Equity

DWF has advised 1st Class Holidays, who offer luxury tailor-made holidays in Canada, North America, New Zealand and Australia, on a £2.5m investment from PHD Private Equity.

The holiday company will now be able to accelerate its growth ambitions and the investment will also provide an exit for Finance Director and shareholder, Henri Treffers.

The Manchester-headquartered company has a turnover of £16m and employs 36 people.  It will continue to be led by Paul Ainsworth and Sharon Mason, who originally founded the business in 1996.

1st Class Holidays has won “Favourite Tour Operator” a record 13 times at the British Annual Canada Travel Awards.

The deal was led by partners Andy Dodd and Craig Richardson and director Tony Meakin at PHD Equity Partners.

Paul Ainsworth of 1st Class said: “Over the last twenty years we have built a high quality service offering and established a strong market position particularly in Canada. The backing from PHD and its partnership approach will give us an even stronger platform to accelerate our plans and take our business to a new level. It is great to be working with an enthusiastic team who share our conviction that our business can be scaled up.”

Andy Dodd of PHD added: “We are investing in a well established travel business, operating in the luxury tailor-made end of the market, and backing a remarkable management team who have created their own niche in Canada. We are looking forward to working with Paul and Sharon to meet their growth plans for the business.”

The deal is the first transaction by PHD from its 2nd private equity fund, which had its final close earlier this year at £20m.

James Dow, Managing Partner of PHD Equity Partners, said: “Our investment in 1st Class meets our aspirations to invest on a partnership basis with good management teams to scale up businesses with discrete competitive advantages.”

The core DWF team consisted of Jonathan Robinson and Katy Philips.

Jonathan, who led the deal, said “We are delighted to have worked with PHD on their first investment from their new fund which will enable 1st Class Holidays to move its business on to a new level.”

DSW Transaction Services provided financial due diligence and RSM provided taxation advice for PHD Equity Partners.

The vendors were advised by Benchmark International, BPR Heaton and Ward Hadaway.

Jonathan Robinson

Partner - Head of Private Equity

I am a Partner and head of the firm’s Private Equity team.