Virgin Voyages unveils $550m cash injection and new CEO

Virgin Voyages has announced a $550 million capital raise to “accelerate” its growth plans – and the retirement of founding chief executive Tom McAlpin (pictured).

The funding round was led by funds managed by the Private Equity Group of Ares Management – a global alternative investment manager – and includes additional capital from existing investors including Virgin Group and Bain Capital.

News of the cash injection came as Virgin Voyages delayed the launch of its fourth ship, Brilliant Lady, citing “unexpected construction, supply chain and staffing challenges”.

The cruise line said: “The new funding raise will enable Virgin Voyages to strengthen its financial position while supporting the brand’s rapid expansion into international markets, with a relentless focus on creating an outstanding and innovative customer experience.”

McAlpin will transition to the role of chairman while Nirmal Saverimuttu, who currently serves as president and chief experience officer, has been appointed the new chief executive.

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In a statement, McAlpin said: “It is hard to express just how proud I am of all that the Virgin Voyages Crew has created and the strong endorsement we are receiving from Ares.

“While I will miss the day-to-day, I believe it is the right time to step aside as CEO.

“Nirmal is a great friend and experienced leader who lives and breathes the Virgin Voyages culture. I look forward to continuing to support the leadership team as chairman.”

Aaron Rosen, partner and co-portfolio manager of special opportunities in the Ares Private Equity Group, said: “With this new investment alongside our partners at Virgin Group and Bain Capital, we believe the company is on strong footing to capitalise on its differentiated product and value proposition in the growing cruise industry.

“We believe that Virgin Voyages continues to be at the forefront of industry growth, and we look forward to working with Tom, Nirmal and the entire management team on this next chapter.”

Josh Bayliss, chief executive of the Virgin Group, added: “The success of this capital raise shows how much Virgin Voyages has achieved and how much further it can go.

“At Virgin, we have always aimed to create extraordinary experiences and challenge the status quo while putting purpose at the core of everything we do. With Tom at the helm, Virgin Voyages has established itself as a company that can do that consistently.

“We are so grateful for his and the team’s leadership in creating a truly brilliant business and look forward to this next phase of the company’s growth.”

Nirmal Saverimuttu Virgin Voyages
Nirmal Saverimuttu, Virgin Voyages

Saverimuttu was a founding leader of Virgin Voyages and joined the business as chief commercial officer in 2014 from the Virgin Group after successfully closing the first investment round.

In early 2021, he took on the expanded role of president and chief experience officer.

Saverimuttu thanked McAlpin for his leadership, adding: “I am looking forward to working with the Ares team and our existing investors to deliver on our growth and expansion plans as we look ahead to our very bright future.”

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC served as exclusive financial advisor and sole placement agent to Virgin Voyages. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel to Virgin Voyages. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as legal counsel to Ares.

Virgin Voyages officially launched in August 2021 and currently operates three ships, servicing the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and by the end of the year, Australia and New Zealand.

Back in August 2022, the cruise line raised $550 million in new capital to support its growth plans, including the launch of Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady and expansion into new markets in Australia and the Caribbean.

The funding was led by funds and accounts managed by investment management firm BlackRock.

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