Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indian millionaire and Dubai Royal Family team up in bid to rescue Pontin\'s

Pontin\'s, the chain of holiday camps which went into administration on Friday, could soon end up in the hands of Indian millionaire Bhanu Choudhrie, securing

850 jobs.

Choudhrie, through his family's investment vehicle C&C Alpha Group, has teamed up with the Dubai Royal Family to look at buying the iconic business for up to £15 million.

C&C Alpha Group will hold discussions with administrator KPMG tomorrow.

The entrepreneur said he had looked at the business six months ago after Pontin's chief executive Ian Smith was searching for potential investors.

When asked about the previous talks, Choudhrie said: 'We walked away from the deal, even though we travelled to two sites and spent £100,000 on due diligence.'

Choudhrie said that Santander, which provided a £46 million loan, pulled the plug on the business after talks with potential investors collapsed.

It was feared that up to 850 jobs were at risk, along with the holidays booked by hard-up Britons who had opted to for a cheap UK break.

The five sites are Brean Sands in Somerset; Camber Sands in East Sussex; Pakefield in Suffolk; Prestatyn Sands in Wales and Southport in Merseyside

continued to trade as normal.

Jane Moriarty, joint administrator at KPMG, said: 'Everybody should get their holidays. We fully expected a lot of interest in Pontin's – it's an iconic British brand.'

While Pontin's has enjoyed a revival in recent years, customers have been appalled at what they see as a lack of investment.

One user, who goes by the name of gl1tangerine, posted a video on the YouTube website, saying 'people need to know how bad this place is'.

He took photographs of a damaged wall and what looks like a bloodstain in the bathroom. At the end of the video he wrote: 'When I dared to complain I was told to **** off and that I would have my legs broken in five minutes.'

Concerns over health standards at Pontin's escalated last month when BBC's Watchdog programme painted a picture of squalor at Camber Sands. Reporters also found a tablet of Temazapan.

Pontin's slide into administration has come as a surprise because more people have been taking holidays in the UK rather than abroad because of the weak pound.

Fred Pontin opened his first holiday park in Brean Sands in 1946. At one point, there were 30 of them.

Graham Parr, chairman of Pontin's, said the 3,000 holidaymakers currently at the five camps would not be affected.

Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at, said he was \'amazed\' that Pontin\'s had gone into administration, describing it as \'an iconic British brand and a stalwart of the British holiday industry\'.

Mr Atkinson said the news was surprising because the boom in \'staycation\' holidays since the beginning of the economic downturn had generally benefited holiday parks like Pontin\'s.

He said: \'If Pontin\'s were to close down it would remove a significant number of competitively-priced short breaks from the more economic end of the market.\'

Mr Atkinson said it was difficult to speculate as to the cause of Pontin\'s entering into administration but added that competition outside of the peak season may have damaged the company.

\'Holidays and breaks out of peak season have often been sold at rock bottom rates, leaving companies with little room for healthy margins.\'

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