Petter Stordalen, Norway’s flamboyant hotel owner and real estate investor, emerged Wednesday as part of a group that’s buying the Ving charter tour group’s operations in the Nordic countries from the bankrupt travel firm Thomas Cook. Stordalen’s Strawberry Group will take over Vinggruppen along with investment funds Altor and TDR Capital.
Strawberry and Altor are each buying 40 percent stakes in Vinggruppen, which consists of Ving Norge, Ving Sverige, Globetrotter, Spies in Denmark, Tjäreborg in Finland and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia. TDR Capital, which also has invested along with Stordalen in Norway’s Hurtigruten passenger shipping line, will own the remaining 20 percent. Stordalen pegged the value of the deal at around NOK 6 billion (USD 652 million), according to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).
Stordalen claimed at a presentation of the deal in Stockholm Wednesday that Ving “has always been a solid company” but that its British owners “drained Ving for what it was. Ving did everything right, Thomas Cook did everything wrong.” After Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy that initially stranded Ving travellers around the world last month, a major “clean-up” operation ensued prior to the sale of individual portions of the Cook conglomerate.
“I never thought I’d be part of owning an airline,” Stordalen said. Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia will now be renamed Sunclass Airline after the overall bidding and purchase deal that was handled by brokerage firm Carnegie, which itself is part-owned owned by Altor. Stordalen stressed how he thought it was important for Ving’s ownership to return to Nordic investors: “This deal unites the heart and the brains,” he declared to clearly relieved Ving employees gathered for the presentation. “I have the heart (for the travel business), my partners have the brains.”