Frosch International acquires Valerie Wilson Travel

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Two family businesses: Left, Richard, Lara and Bryan Leibman of Frosch International; right, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson, Kimberly Wilson Wetty and Brian Buttigeig of Valerie Wilson Travel.
Two family businesses: Left, Richard, Lara and Bryan Leibman of Frosch International; right, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson, Kimberly Wilson Wetty and Brian Buttigeig of Valerie Wilson Travel.

Frosch International Travel has acquired Valerie Wilson Travel, a move that brings together two New York City-based agencies run by two generations of families that built their respective brands into multimillion-dollar travel businesses.

Frosch was No. 14 on Travel Weekly's 2020 Power List, with $2.4 billion in 2019 sales, and Valerie Wilson Travel was No. 36 with $325 million.

Frosch was founded in 1972; chairman Richard Leibman acquired the agency from the Frosch family in 1977. His children Bryan Leibman and Lara Leibman later joined Frosch; Bryan is now president and CEO, and Lara is executive vice president.

Valerie Wilson founded her namesake agency in 1981 after she failed to find a luxury travel agent to work with when planning her own vacation. She, too, brought family into the fold: Her daughters, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg and Kimberly Wilson Wetty, are co-presidents of the agency; Wilson-Buttigieg's husband, Brian Buttigieg, also had a role, as CFO.

"We are all passionate about this industry, and as leaders in this industry and as family businesses in this industry, we are going to lead the future and are going to lead the rebuilding process forward," Wilson-Buttigieg said during a media call. "We are so excited to be able to bring probably the two leading names [in travel and hospitality] together."

Terms of the acquisition, which was formalized April 30, were not disclosed.

Going forward, Valerie Wilson Travel will be an independent brand under Frosch's umbrella. It remains a member of Virtuoso, and Valerie Wilson will continue to lead the brand as its chairman and CEO. Wilson-Buttigieg and Wilson Wetty retain their roles as co-presidents, and they join Frosch's executive leadership team with senior leadership positions. Brian Buttigieg has been named Valerie Wilson Travel's COO and has joined Frosch's executive team as general counsel. Patrick Fragale, its executive vice president, will have expanded leadership responsibilities.

Frosch, co-headquartered in Houston, will remain a member of Signature Travel Network.

Wilson said that she and Richard Leibman had "very much have helped grow and start what became the luxury travel industry today, because we've been at it from the very beginning." She added that the acquisition is a "merger of talent, and people, and ideas, and creativity."

"I've never thought of us as competitors, but I guess we were, in a way," Wilson added. "But the fact is that  we will be No. 1, without a doubt, in the entire luxury travel industry."

Richard Leibman echoed Wilson's comments, and he said they have known each other for close to 40 years and enjoyed friendly competition and mutual respect over the years.

"You've got two wonderful daughters in the business who have carried it forward, and we've seen them grow as I've seen my children grow," he said. "To bring these two families together is just amazing. Your name is world renowned."

"We believe in the future," said Bryan Leibman. "We have a great past that we've seen from our tremendous leaders and families, but we have great belief in our future."

Earlier this year Frosch received a minority investment from private equity firm EagleTree Capital, which Frosch said at the time could be used for investments, including "potential acquisitions."

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