Uniglobe franchisees join to form a $200M mega agency

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Uniglobe's top nine U.S. franchisees and a division of the franchisor quietly merged late last month to create a single $200 million corporation called Uniglobe Travel Partners.

The founding president is Marie Magliano, who has been the owner of Uniglobe at Best Travel, based in Mount Arlington, N.J., and a franchisee for 22 years.

She said the merger would enable the partners to compete for larger corporate accounts and to expand on the leisure side, as well. The newly formed Uniglobe Travel Partners has a 65/35 corporate-leisure split.

Under its new aggregate structure, Uniglobe Travel Partners would have ranked No. 36 in Travel Weekly's 2006 Power List, falling between Gateway and Travel Store.

Magliano said the organization would benefit from each owner's unique talents and from the fact that each of the shareholders would be in the communities where they started their businesses. This will provide "local expertise and flexibility that are simply not available with major conglomerates," she said.

One partner has been a unit of Uniglobe Travel USA, dubbed the Central Processing Unit, or CPU. It provides hosting services to home-based and non-ARC agencies, and its name will be changed to Uniglobe Connect, said U. Gary Charlwood, chairman of Uniglobe Travel USA. On average, the other nine partners have been Uniglobe franchisees for 15 years, he said.

As a single franchisee selling $200 million a year, the new UTP "boosts the attractiveness of this organization to suppliers," which will benefit all Uniglobe franchisees regardless of size, Charlwood said. In addition, he said other locations might benefit from some of the new corporate business by networking with UTP in markets where the larger agency does not have offices.

Pointing to Uniglobe's formula that says no customer should account for more than 10% of an agency's business, he said the new UTP now could pursue accounts in the $20 million range.

Magliano was described as the "inaugural president." She said the business might have a rotating presidency after the fashion of law firms. "After two years, we will re-evaluate this," she said.

Even if the post rotated, Charlwood said, the home office probably would not move from Magliano's agency in Mount Arlington, N.J. However, he added that "we'd all be delighted if she did this for 20 years."

The other officers are Mary Hanigan, corporate secretary at Uniglobe Spectrum in Lake Oswego, Ore., and Doug Carpenter, treasurer and CFO at Uniglobe Wings Travel in Blue Bell, Pa.

Charlwood, who has been deeply involved in the wider world of franchising, emphasized the uniqueness of the UTP structure, which creates 10 equal partners, as distinct from the more typical model in which one business buys up competing businesses.

Magliano said the partners, when trying to deal with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, started meeting informally "to benchmark and share best practices." In the process, she said they "became friends and respected each other's talents."

Though a number of details have yet to be finalized, UTP is already functioning as a single company. The outlets will take on the new Uniglobe Travel Partners name once press announcements are made and after advising clients, Magliano said.

Looking to the future, she said UTP wanted to expand into new markets. It may take on additional partners, but "access will be through the franchise system," Charlwood said. Prospective new shareholders would have to be "sizeable" to match existing partners and would have to first work with UTP within the franchise framework. They would buy in as UTP partners, he said.

Expanding overseas is a possibility, Charlwood said. "We need to get this on the road first," he added.

The franchise organization already has networking partners in London, Madrid, Paris and Shanghai, he said.

UTP counts 120 full-time employees and 26 part-timers.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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