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Lovells has reinforced its longstanding family ties with Active Hotels by advising the online travel provider on its sale to giant US competitor priceline.com.
In a deal worth approximately £90m, the magic circle firm represented the travel firm, which is owned and co-founded by Andrew Phillipps, son of former Lovell White & King (now Lovells) managing partner Patrick Phillipps.
Phillipps senior, a corporate specialist, retired in 1997 after 32 years at the firm.
Lovells was brought on board when Cambridge-based Active Hotels, founded by Phillipps and cousin Adrian Critchlow, filed for initial investment in 1999, and the firm has been involved in each subsequent round of financing.
The pair reaped £18m from the sale – an average of £4.5m for each year they worked on the project and considerably more than Phillipps senior would have been paid annually by Lovells.
Active Hotels has been primed as the European springboard for priceline.com’s assault on the transatlantic market, with Phillipps taking the reins for the entire operation.
The US company, represented by Baker & McKenzie, sells discount travel products ranging from airline tickets and package trips to one-off hotel stays and car hire, and is best known for a string of advertising appearances by celebrity fan William Shatner.
Active Hotels, which works with 8,000 hotels and 1,500 partner websites, won the Deloitte award for the fastest-growing UK technology company in 2003, while Phillipps himself was named emerging entrepreneur of the year by Ernst & Young in the same year.
The tie-up is widely regarded as one of the largest online travel M&A transactions so far this year, with priceline.com revealing gross bookings of $470m (£263.2m) for the quarter ended 30 June 2004. Phillipps said: “We believe our pricing model will continue to put real pressure on competitors.”
UBS Investment Bank acted as financial adviser to Active Hotels, while Deloitte provided tax expertise.