ONSITE: Carlson Acquisition Affirms Confidence in Travel Agent Distribution Channel

NEW YORK--In a stunning affirmation of the value of travel agents, Minneapolis-based Carlson agreed to the acquisition of its Carlson Leisure Group (CLG) led by Michael Batt. Batt has formed a new company Travel Acquisitions Group (TAG) to acquire the group.

The new TAG will include franchised travel agency brands including Cruise Holidays, Results! Travel and Sea Master Cruises, as well as the 500 Carlson Wagonlit Travel brand franchisees. Joining Batt on the TAG management team is Roger Block.

"This is a win/win transaction. It allows Carlson to accelerate the growth of its global travel, hotel and restaurant brands, and enables a proven management team, known and trusted by our franchisees, to seek new opportunities in the leisure space," Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Carlson chairman and CEO said.

Batt said that TAG would pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy and said that he believed TAG could deliver exceptional value for acquired agencies. Without diluting quality, Batt said that a goal would be to increase TAG's sales/asset base by $1.5 billion over two years.

Employees and member agencies are now being advised of the details of the transaction. Carlson said the terms of the purchase would not be disclosed. The acquisition was completed on January 28 and announced at a press conference the following day.

Other TAG brands impacted by the move include: All Aboard Travel, Carlson Destination Marketing Services, Connexion Loyalty Travel Services, CruiseDeals.com, Cruise Specialists, Fly4Less.com. Luxury Travel Network, Partners In Travel and SinglesCruise.com.

By TAG's purchasing the travel assets currently held within CLG, Batt and Block hope to sustain high levels of growth. CLG has grown from 960 locations in 1996 to more than 1,700 today. CLG owned operations has sales approaching $1 billion while travel sales made by the franchise groups is in excess of $5 billion.

Effects on day-to-day operations of member agencies will be minimal, Batt said, and will in fact strengthen the agencies franchise. "Our team really believes in this business, "Batt said. TAG will be based in Minneapolis. For information, visit http://www.carlson.com.


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