Bluestone National Park Resort has secured a multimillion pound loan from Barclays which sees the majority shareholding passed to management and staff, a major investment in a new all-weather facility, and the creation of 300 additional jobs by 2020.
The deal with Barclays, for an undisclosed sum, sees the equity stake held since 2013 by private investors, including Admiral Group chief executive David Stevens, reduce to 25%.
William and Pamela McNamara become the company’s biggest shareholders and a further 30% shareholding will be transferred to an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT), believed to be unique in the resort sector.
Designs are currently being drawn up for a £6.5million Eden Project-style Sky Dome at the luxury resort, which is expected to open in 2018. This follows the proposed £3.5million transformation of the disused 19th century Black Pool Mill into a Victorian-themed attraction, which has just been submitted for planning consent.
Over the next three years, the number of year-round jobs will increase by 300 to more than 1000, with all eligible staff set to benefit from dividends via the EBT.
Since 2013, turnover has increased by over 50% from £14.5M in 2013 to £22M in 2016 and staying guest numbers have increased from 95,000 to 130,000. Occupancy at the resort has averaged over 95% over the last 3 years, despite adding 25% more sleeping capacity over the past 18 months.
Bluestone Chief Executive, William McNamara OBE, said:
“Our original vision for Bluestone which began some two decades ago has been realised over the past three years. This culminated earlier this year in the completion of our third phase which took the number of 5* lodges, cottages and studio apartments to more than 300.
“Staff are the heart of the customer experience at Bluestone and therefore our success as a business overall, so I’m delighted that our plans for an Employee Benefit Trust have become a reality.
“The EBT will reward staff for their incredible loyalty and commitment and ensure they have a new opportunity to be recognised for the outstanding job they do for our visitors. We now have our sights firmly set on the future and our staff will continue to play a key part of this vision.”
Jason Llewellyn, Barclays Corporate Banking Director, said:
“By really understanding the business and the industry sector, Barclays has been able to deliver a funding package to support Bluestone throughout this exciting development. Over the past three years Bluestone has made great progress, investing in additional accommodation in the Park and demonstrating a strong track record of cash generation and profitability.
“It’s clear that it is in the best interests of the company and its trade for the management to take back a significantly greater equity stake in the business, as the key stakeholders driving the business forward.
“We are delighted to have played a role in helping realise this ambition and look forward to the next phase of the business’s development.”
Bluestone’s private investors, David and Heather Stevens, Andrew Probert and Henry and Diane Engelhardt will retain a stake in the resort.
David Stevens said:
“We are delighted by the success of Bluestone over the last few years and that is testament to the hard work and vision of its management and employees. I am pleased that this can be recognised through the new ownership structure.
“We are excited to be continuing to be part of the future of Bluestone and believe that it has established a fantastic reputation in the market which sets it up for future success.”
Law firm Blake Morgan acted for Barclays, with Acuity Legal acting for the Bluestone directors.