The Inside story on the rise and rise of Bridge Leisure..
Founded in 2008 by Andrew Howe and Simon Williams as a holiday park consultancy and management business, Bridge Leisure initially focused on operating holiday parks for third parties. Both Andrew and Simon worked in the holiday park industry before setting up the company and both shared the vision of wanting to own a portfolio of individual holiday parks across the country. Andrew has worked in the leisure industry for 16 years, within both independent and plc companies including Talarius PLC, the UK’s largest High Street slot machine operator, and UK holiday parkoperators, Park Resorts. He shaped Sandy Balls Holiday Centre into the UK’s benchmark independent park and developed Park Resort’s lodge strategy. Equally at home on the park or in the boardroom, he expertly bridges the gap between the two. With 20 years’ experience of holiday parks, including at Bourne Leisure’s and Park Resorts’ leading locations, Simon has extensive industry knowledge. He heads the operations of our parks, both owned and managed.
Their first office was based in the spare bedroom of Andrew’s house where they spent two years building the business and looking for an opportunity to work with financial backers to help them purchase their first park. In 2010, with the backing of Kings Park Capital, the pair expanded into the operation of owned parks with the acquisitions of Trevella Park in Cornwall and Sand Le Mere Holiday Village on the Yorkshirecoast, followed by Turnberry, in Ayrshire, at the end of 2012. The recent acquisition of Yorkshire’s Bowland Fell takes Bridge Leisure’s estate to nine parks as it continues to consolidate the fragmented UK holiday park market. The Milton Keynes based company has now trebled the number of parks it owns since completing a management buyout supported by Phoenix Equity Partners (“Phoenix”) in 2015. Bowland Fell is a beautiful park set in an expanse of countryside between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Forest of Bowland – an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Andrew comments: “We are excited about the prospects for the park under Bridge Leisure’s ownership and plan to invest to further improve and grow the park in the coming years. “The park is run by a great team with lots of experience and enthusiasm, so we are really looking forward to joining forces and working together to take the park from strength to strength.” Bridge Leisure already own parks in Cornwall, Scotland, The Peak District and a second Yorkshire based park in Tunstall while in addition provides operational consultancy services to other park operators. Other key team players include Richard Hunt, chairman of the restructured Bridge Leisure Management, who boasts 20 years of board and executive level experience in senior general management roles in the leisure sector, with both private equity-backed businesses. Operations Manager, Alison Watson, has worked in the holiday park industry for more than 25 years, starting in 1989 as a children’s entertainer at Rockley Park in Dorset and then working across the country in roles covering retail, caravan sales and general management, running holiday parks in North Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland. As operations manager, Alison works closely with holiday park owners so that Bridge Leisure can help grow their business fi nancially and ensure a superb experience for their holiday home owners and holidaymakers. Andrew concludes: “It’s been a very successful few years for the company with a sustained period of growth and investment. “When we undertook the management buyout in 2015 we owned three parks but had a clear and ambitious plan to grow the group through acquisition and organic growth. “A little under four years later, with the backing of Phoenix, we have been able to add a further six parks and substantially grow both our existing and acquired parks.
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