Risk Capital Partners takes stake in Simpson Travel

Entrepreneur Luke Johnson’s private equity firm Risk Capital Partners has taken an undisclosed stake in specialist tour operator Simpson Travel.

The operator offers boutique hotels, luxury villas and apartments in Corsica, France, Greece, Italy, Mallorca and Turkey.

Former Hotelplan UK chief executive Paul Carter will become the company’s chairman following the deal, while Ed Pyke (pictured, right) will step up from operations director to become managing director.

Founder Graham Simpson (pictured, left) will remain as an advisor to the board, while his two sons, Mathew and Daniel, and daughter Hannah will continue in their roles of product director, commercial director and head of trade sales, respectively. Helen Grace will continue as marketing and communications director.

Graham Simpson founded Simply Travel as Simply Crete in 1978, offering villa holidays in Greece.

Thomson Holidays bought Simply Travel in 1999 but Graham Simpson returned to the trade after a sabbatical to set up Simpson Travel in 2002, becoming managing director in 2008.

Risk Capital Partners’ involvement in travel has included Neilson Active Holidays and, which was sold to Bridgepoint Development Capital for £52 million in 2016.

Johnson, former chairman of Pizza Express and Channel 4, was chairman of Neilson Active Holidays from 2014-18 before it was sold.

He was also the largest shareholder and a non-executive director at Elegant Hotels, which was sold to Marriott for $200 million in 2019.

Pyke said: “I am thrilled to be stepping up to the role of managing director at this pivotal time in the company’s history.  We have seen record years in 2023 and 2024 to date, as bookings exceed pre-pandemic levels.

“As one of the UK’s most respected specialist tour operators I recognise the firm foundations and reputation for excellence that Graham has established for Simpson Travel and look forward to building on his legacy to take the company forward.

“The investment and backing of RCP affords a wonderful opportunity to push on with our ambitious growth plans; I am enormously proud of all that we have achieved to date and hugely excited for the future.”

Graham Simpson said: “I am delighted that RCP are joining the team. There is no doubt their backing presents an exciting prospect. They are as passionate as I am about the future of Simpson Travel and I know that our founding principles will remain at the heart of the business.

“Our reputation is built upon exceptional service and the distinctive quality of our accommodation and I look forward to watching the business go from strength to strength under the leadership of an outstanding management team.”

Johnson added: “We believe Simpson Travel is a terrific brand with a tremendously loyal customer base. We look forward to supporting Ed and the management team in their ambitious plans to develop the business.”

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