No shuffle for Topdeck

topdeckFlight Centre’s acquisition of 90% of Topdeck Tours is purely an investment which will have no impact on the day-to-day operations – or the company’s relationships with other travel retailers, according to the company’s managing director James Nathan.

Nathan retains the remaining 10% of the company, while Flight Centre has purchased the stakes formerly held by the other partners in the venture –a consortium of the original Flight Centre founders who had a 20% stake, and APT which held the rest.

Flight Centre has a similar hands-off investment in the Back-Roads Touring Co., which is also held 33% by Nathan.

“Like Back-Roads Touring, Topdeck Travel will continue to operate as an independent entity based out of headquarters in Brisbane and Chiswick, London,” he told TravelBulletin.

Nathan said the acquisition by Flight Centre came on the back of an “incredibly strong European summer season,” with Topdeck recording growth of more than 30%.

“[The] announcement is a natural platform to continue building for the ongoing success of the business,” he added.

He told TravelBulletin that he had spoken with other travel groups about the Flight Centre acquisition and they were very comfortable with the move. “In fact the fastest growing parts of our business in Australia are coming out of Helloworld and Magellan Travel Group,” he said.

Flight Centre chief operating officer, Melanie Waters-Ryan said the company was “investing in an iconic and profitable business that we know well.

“This investment gives us a new revenue stream, thereby enhancing our diversity, and creates opportunities to develop differentiated products for customers, in line with our strategy of manufacturing and launching unique product,” she said.

The purchase values Topdeck at £21.84 million (A$38.7 million), with an additional contingent payment of up to £4.16 million (A$7.3 million) depending on the business’s results for the year to 31 October 2014.

Flight Centre’s involvement sees managing director Graham Turner complete a full circle, having founded Topdeck in 1973 and run it alongside Flight Centre until the mid-1980s when he sold his interest in the touring operation to focus on the travel agency business.

Along with Flight Centre co-founders, he bought back into Topdeck in 2003. Before Flight Centre’s investment last month Turner held a four per cent interest in the business.