In a move designed to fuel the company's growth, Apple Leisure Group, comprising Apple Vacations, AMResorts and Amstar DMC, completed an equity investment deal on Dec. 28 with Bain Capital, a private investment firm. Alex Zozaya, formerly president of AMResorts, was named CEO of Apple Leisure Group. He spoke with Caribbean and Mexico editor Gay Nagle Myers about the reasons behind the move and what it means going forward.
Q: This year is off to a fast start for you. What does this mean for AMResorts and Apple Leisure Group as a whole?
A: You're right. We are starting the year at full speed. Our intent was to raise capital to grow the company, especially AMResorts. We were looking for an institutional investor to help take the company to the next level and to position the company to drive the next phase of growth in the hospitality market.
Q: What's the dollar value or equity share of Bain's investment?
A: We remain a private company, so I cannot reveal the dollar amount or percentage, but this represents a significant partnership with substantial cash infusion to grow the company.
Q: Describe the chain of events leading up to the Bain investment.
A: In 2006, we saw opportunities for future growth in the hotel sector. We knew we would need a third-party investor. From 2007 to 2009, we did have a financial partner, but we bought back 100% of that partner's shares in late 2009, and we retained full ownership of the company until Bain Capital entered the picture. In 2011, we saw growth coming, based on the power and success of our brands. At the same time, we began receiving unsolicited offers to acquire the company. Instead of selling the company, we decided to start the bidding process. We retained Deutsche Bank to handle the bidding, and 28 players showed up. We were focused on financial sponsors that could deploy money for growth without controlling our company. Four months ago, we decided on Bain and secured the deal before the end of 2012 for tax purposes.
Q: What does Bain Capital bring to the table?
A: Bain shares our vision and strongly supports the way we conduct business. With Bain's backing as a global investment firm, we are well positioned to advance our company to the next strategic level. The partnership brings new resources to fund further market expansion, portfolio growth, technological advancements and personnel acquisition and continues to enable us to deliver exceptional guest experiences.
Q: What's the executive lineup now?
A: I will continue to oversee AMResorts as well as serve in my new role as CEO of Apple Leisure Group. Gonzalo del Peon, formerly executive vice president of AMResorts, is now president. Tim and Jeff Mullen remain as co-presidents of Apple Vacations and Amstar DMC, our destination management company. Matt Mullen continues as a top executive on the AMResorts sales team. Javier Coll, formerly chief financial officer of AMResorts, is now executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Apple Leisure Group. Bain has two seats on our six-member board of directors.
Q: What can we expect from AMResorts in terms of expansion going forward?
A: A lot. We had significant growth in 2012, we've got five properties opening in 2013 and 2014 and lots more in negotiations. We will grow faster and broader because we now have the resources to do so.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.