Two big names in luxury travel buy Abercrombie & Kent

Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio (left) will own 85% of Abercrombie & Kent, and Geoffrey Kent will own 15%.
Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio (left) will own 85% of Abercrombie & Kent, and Geoffrey Kent will own 15%.

Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent has been purchased from troubled Chinese real estate company Zhonghong Holdings Group by A&K founder/chairman Geoffrey Kent and Silversea executive chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio.

Lefebvre said a portion of proceeds from his sale of 67% of Silversea to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. last June will be used in the transaction. His family's holding company, Heritage Group, will own 85% of A&K, with Kent owning the remaining portion. 

Royal Caribbean and Silversea are not involved in the acquisition.

Kent will continue as chairman and CEO of the operating company, while Lefebvre will assume the role of chairman of Abercrombie & Kent Holding.

Lefebvre described the arrangement as "a strategic partnership."

"We've been friends for many years," Lefebvre said of his relationship with Kent. "We both live in Monaco and get together frequently."

"It's a dream come true," Kent chimed in. "You now have two owners who have more luxury experience on sea and land than anyone. We've always seen things the same way; we have the same vision. And now we have two brains to work on it. We'll be dominating land, air and sea, wherever we operate. That's the plan."

While initially it'll be business as usual with no changes affecting operations or partners, Lefebvre said the two will be working on developing a strategy in the coming months. 

"We'll be looking at possibly purchasing other companies," Kent added. "And we'll really be expanding in river ships."

Lefebvre said he does not anticipate any problems with financing growth. "We can find whatever is needed and will optimize the structure of financing and equity."

"And we won't be turning around and selling to private equity in four months' time. That's not what this is about," Kent said.

The two have done business before, acquiring the polar expedition ship MV Explorer in 1992, two years before Silversea was launched by Lefebvre's father.

A&K has offices in about 30 countries, and the pair said that clearing regulatory issues will result in a late first-quarter or second-quarter closing. 

The purchase price was not disclosed.

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