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February 13, 2019

Small Ship News: Luxury Tour Operator Abercrombie & Kent Has New Owners

Luxury Tour Operator Abercrombie & Kent Has New Owners

By Anne Kalosh.

The executive chairman of Silversea Cruises is taking a majority stake in one of the best known tour (and small-ship) operators, Abercrombie & Kent.

“Abercrombie & Kent is the finest luxury travel company in the world, and I am honored to be able to partner with Geoffrey Kent to help this remarkable company continue its record growth,” Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio said. He considers Kent a legend and a visionary in experiential travel. They’re also friends.

The deal doesn’t mean a tie-up between Silversea and A&K, though.

Lefebvre is making the acquisition through his investment group, Heritage, six months after selling most of his Silversea holdings to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Heritage will own 85 percent of A&K and Geoffrey Kent will own 15 percent.

Abercrombie & Kent Has New Owners

Manfredi Lefebvre, left, and Geoffrey Kent are friends, and now business partners. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Lefebvre and Kent are buying out China’s Zhonghong Holding, a real estate and tourism developer that in late 2018 became the first company booted off the Shenzhen Stock Exchange because of poor share price performance amid a company debt crisis.

Besides its luxurious land and private jet programs, A&K is a seasoned seller of expedition cruises to the Arctic, Antarctica, the Kimberley in Australia and beyond. It uses small ships belonging to French cruise line Ponant, Silversea and others. The company also curates programs on the waterways of Europe and owns a fleet of riverboats in China, Egypt and Myanmar.

It’s easy to assume Lefebvre might seek to grow A&K by building or buying cruise ships. But he brushed off that notion for now, saying there’s plenty of organic growth in store for A&K in cultivating more destination management companies, expanding destinations and fostering existing programs featuring safari camps and riverboats. After a first stage of organic growth, a second stage would look to external growth, Lefebvre said, without giving details.

As far as Kent sees it: “I am very excited to be working with Manfredi. I cannot think of a better or more experienced partner for the next phase of A&K’s growth.”

New Frontiers

Kent said A&K will thrive just as it always has—by exploring new frontiers. He wants to go to “all the places I’ve never been,” which has led to the development of pioneering programs (in 1962, Kent created Kenya’s first luxury tented photographic safaris). Luxury and insider access are other hallmarks.

“The only thing that matters to us is that our clients come back happy,” he said.

“Geoffrey and I share the same philosophy,” Lefebvre added.

Lefebvre knows A&K’s standards first-hand. He’s traveled with the company on African safaris and to Morocco and Mexico. Some of the other prominent personalities who’ve trusted A&K to arrange their trips include Bill Gates, David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Henry Kissinger, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Sting, Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Ben Stiller, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz, Elle Macpherson, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

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