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Bell tolls for AQV as parent company Hornblower acquired

The United States-based river cruise line has shut down, as its parent company Hornblower Group has been acquired by an investment firm.

HORNBLOWER Group is set to be acquired by Strategic Value Partners (SVP), and receive significant new equity investment, following news the company’s American Queen Voyages (AQV) cruise line will be sold or wound down.

SVP will become the majority owner of Hornblower, with Crestview Partners retaining a significant minority ownership, while also becoming the sole owner of Journey Beyond, which Hornblower acquired in January 2022.

The agreement will provide US$121 million in new money financing to support the ongoing operations and total debt reduction of approximately US$720 million.

It will also see Journey Beyond return to being a freestanding company under the continuing ownership of Crestview.

However AQV, which has not recovered from the pandemic, has cancelled all future voyages, and is offering its booked passengers refunds, saying it has become “financially unsustainable” since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are deeply proud of our crew and the outstanding travel experiences and service we have provided to our guests,” a statement posted on the AQV website says.

“As we reflect on the journey we have shared over the years, we are filled with gratitude for the privilege of serving our guests, partners, and agents and for being part of our incredible local communities,” AQV added.

“It has been an honour to bring joy to so many lives, and we are deeply touched by the relationships we have formed and the memorable experiences we have created.”

Journey Beyond, which represented AQV in Australia, said it will contact any impacted local guests or travel advisors to assist them with their plans.

“Our travel centre has started working through impacted agents and guests in order of departure,” Journey Beyond said.

“Journey Beyond is committed to refunding any deposit monies received by us or Australian guests.”

The acquisition and rationalisation of AQV will enable Hornblower to move ahead with a more focused portfolio, stronger balance sheet and additional financial flexibility, well-positioned to continue driving growth in its core land- and water-based experiences businesses, the company said.

“The steps we are taking today will enable us to address AQV and strengthen our financial foundation as we continue serving our guests and commuters around the world,” Hornblower Chief Executive Officer Kevin Rabbitt said.

“With the support of our financial stakeholders, we will continue to advance our business initiatives and drive growth.

“We thank the entire Hornblower team for their hard work and dedication, as well as our vendors and partners across our businesses for their continued support.”

None of Hornblower’s current services, with the exception of AQV, will not be impacted in any way by the transaction, and are performing well, the company said.

Those wishing to apply for a refund from AQV are encouraged to visit aqvrefunds.com.

Journey Beyond, which since its acquisition had continued to operate as a stand-alone business unit, said it continues to enjoy record demand and strong trading across its range of experiences.

It has a separate capital structure in Australia, as well as its own source of funding.

“Journey Beyond intends to formally separate from the Hornblower Group and whilst it remains subject to a number of consents and approvals, we look forward to our planned continued ownership by Crestview, as one of their portfolio companies,” Journey Beyond Chief Executive Officer Chris Tallent said.

“This announcement will have no impact on our operations and as Australia’s leading experiential tourism group, we remain focused on delivering our incredible experiences to all of our guests.”

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