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Holiday camps HQ moves to Merseysid; In association with BUSINESS VENTURE Pontin's in pounds 46m buyout.

Byline: BY ALISTAIR HOUGHTON Daily Post Business Staff

HOLIDAY camp chain Pontin's is moving its headquarters to Merseyside, after a former senior director of retail chain Matalan bought the business in a deal believed to be worth pounds 46m.

The chain will move its head office to Pontin's holiday village, in Southport, after the buyout by Ocean Parcs.

Its chief executive will be Ian Smith, former finance director of Skelmersdale-based Matalan - and he says that Pontin's business could grow as environmentallyfriendly holidaymakers choose to take breaks in Britain rather than fly abroad.

Mr Smith, a resident of Southport, promised he and his management team would help Pontin's and its seven holiday villages adopt a "modern and stylistic" approach to win more business.

He said: "We're very excited about it. Bookings are looking good. Easter is successful. With people becoming increasingly aware of carbon emissions and the increased costs associated with environmentally unfriendly travel, more and more people are choosing to holiday closer to home. I think that works in our favour.

"Pontin's is a very wellestablished brand that needs developing. I think it can come into the 21st century.

"Around 1m people a year stay at Pontin's. That's a lot of people."

Sir Fred Pontin founded his first holiday camp in Somerset in 1946.

Venues are well-known for their blue coated entertainers. Famous former Bluecoats include actor and singer Shane Richie and sports presenter Helen Chamberlain.

Mr Smith said Pontin's would look to develop its growing weekend break and special events holidays, such as "rock weekends", saying the holiday villages were often busy outside traditional school holiday periods. Southportborn Mr Smith spent 12 years at Matalan, overseeing the company's stock market flotation in 1998.

Ocean Parcs is led by former Pontin's chief executive Graham Parr, who introduced Mr Smith to the business.

It bought Pontin's from Lancashire entrepreneur Trevor Hemmings, who is also a major shareholder in Liverpool-based Littlewoods and Vernons Pools owner Sportech.

Mr Smith said Pontin's current base, near Chorley, was too large for its needs. He would not reveal how many people would move from Chorley to Southport as the company was still consulting with staff.

Mr Carr, now Pontin's executive chairman, said: "This is almost like coming home for me. I know this business and many of its management well.

"I am very excited by the prospects and I am delighted to be a part of its future."

Around1m people a year stay at Pontin's
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 28, 2008
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