According to CFO.com, a website catering to chief financial officers, private equity firm Apollo Management has won the right to purchase Regent Seven Seas from Carlson Companies for $1 billion. Apollo is half owner of "contemporary" Norwegian Cruise Line and majority owner of premium line Oceania Cruises. Regent, as a luxury brand, would round out Apollo's portfolio. On previous occasions, Apollo has publicly said that it was not finished acquiring brands-a point echoed by Oceania's Chairman and CEO, Frank Del Rio, in a recent interview with Travel Agent. But at this point, none of the parties will comment publicly so there is no official confirmation.
Nonetheless, highly placed sources tell us negotiations have been under way for some time and are reaching the final stages. Right now, CFO.com says, the final details are being worked out and banks are lining up to fund the deal. Several other major private equity firms were reportedly part of the bidding process. If the deal does go through, what can agents expect? Fortunately, Apollo has taken a "hands off" approach to the day-to-day operations of NCL and Oceania, much as Carnival Corp. has done with its different brands. Del Rio told us he was "absolutely" running his own show at Oceania, so it's likely that existing management will remain in place at Regent if the deal is inked.
Del Rio also described Apollo as "extremely helpful" with the financial aspects of Oceania's operation--dealing with banks and garnering financing. As a result, Oceania has been able to announce fleet expansion with larger ships. Apollo's financial clout also would undoubtedly be helpful to Regent in future efforts to order new ships. Regent's newest ship, Seven Seas Voyager, was built in early 2003, nearly five years ago. Any new ships ordered would take two to three years to build, plus many yards have construction slots filled for the coming years. But a deal from Apollo could jumpstart a fleet building program once again for Regent. (SY)