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Tom Keighley

Bradford's Icelolly in £17m management buyout

Bradford-based holiday price comparison provider, Icelolly, has undergone a £17m management buyout backed by Manchester’s Palatine Private Equity.

Icelolly is is a high-growth holiday price comparison provider with the main brand being Icelolly.com. The business also trades as an online travel agent via a series of brands, as well as selling advertising space via its site traffic and email database.

The company has enjoyed year-on-year growth since it was founded in 2005 and is expected to generate record turnover and profits in the current year.

The buyout was led by Icelolly CEO Dave Clayton, who has 23 years’ experience in the travel industry having spent 11 years at Global Travel before joining the company. The buyout will enable the business to continue to invest in its online network and infrastructure to take advantage of the strong market dynamics.

Palatine Partner Andy Lees and investment director Beth Houghton led the deal and will both join the Icelolly board as non-executive directors. Chris Allen, the former CEO and chairman of LateRooms has joined the business as non-executive chairman.

Andy Lees, Partner at Palatine Private Equity, said: “The travel sector was an early adopter of ecommerce with more consumers researching online to find the best deals for their holidays. Icelolly is afantastic business with a strong and vibrant brand identity offering excellent value to its customers. We are really pleased to be joining the team and supporting the business through its next stage of growth.”

Dave Clayton, chief executive Officer at Icelolly, said: “Icelolly.com had 28 million visitors last year, andthe brand has quickly become a household name for great value holidays. We have spent the last 3 months getting to know Palatine, and they share the same vision for the future as our very experienced management team.

“I am delighted they have decided to invest in what promises to be a very exciting chapter in the company’s development.The company has exciting plans to add content and functionality to the site, and is planning to move to new offices to accommodate plans for growth.”

A team at Manchester-based international investment bank Altium provided corporate finance advice to Palatine, led by Managing Director Simon Lord and supported by Assistant Director Chris Hopwood and Analyst Jon Stead.

Simon Lord, managing director at Altium, said: “Icelolly has developed into one of the UK’s leading online holiday price comparison providers and is an essential sales channel to the travel companies and holiday goers that it serves.

“Palatine has identified a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the continued growth of price comparison services. The investment will also assist to further develop Icelolly’s own online travel agency activities.”

Founders Adrian Walton and Lesley Etienne who are both exiting the business, said: “The last 8 years since we launched Icelolly.com have flown, and we have enjoyed some great times along the way. We have worked with some fantastic people, and we are confident that Dave Clayton, the management team and Palatine private equity will steer the company where it needs to go.”

Sempora provided commercial due diligence to Palatine and Dow Schofield Watts Transaction Services provided financial due diligence. Partner Gregg Davison, Andy Phillips and Sarah Flinn led the team at Pinsent Masons who provided legal support to Palatine.

The Quinn Partnership carried out management due diligence with Marsh providing insurance diligence.

MSA Law and Hilton Legal provided tax and legal advice to the vendors.

Matt Peters of Maxaim provided transaction support to the managementteam and legal advice was provided by Kate Richards of Gateley LLP.

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