Hello again campers, says Pontin's boss

Graham Parr, former owner of Pontin's holiday camps, is back in charge again. Hi-de-Hi!

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Parr – who has teamed up with former Matalan FD Ian Smith to do the £46m deal - reportedly believes that a combination of concern over carbon footprints and a tightening of family purse strings will lead to a resurgence in the popularity of the old fashioned British seaside holiday. In which case the seven-strong holiday park business founded by Fred Pontin in 1946 will be well placed to make enough cash to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools. Its locations - including Camber Sands, Prestatyn and Hemsby (we think it’s in Norfolk) – are all coastal. And the facilities are - according to one intrepid MT staffer who spent a day in the Pontin’s at Blackpool a year or two ago - sufficiently ‘traditional’ to satisfy the most ardent of vacationing small ‘c’ conservatives.

Parr, who started his career as a Pontin’s Bluecoat, has made just such a killing once already. In 1989 he and then-partner Trevor Hemmings sold the business to Scottish & Newcastle for nearly £115m, barely two years after acquiring it from Bass for £57.5m. In fact Pontin’s has proved something of a cash cow for both of them. Hemmings - who also owns Blackpool Tower - went on to re-acquire the somewhat reduced outfit from S&N in 2000 for a mere £30m, and it’s from him that Parr’s company Ocean Parcs has re-acquired it. Still with us? That sounds almost as much fun as a game of musical chairs in the Hawaiian ballroom, and a lot more lucrative. Hemmings will retain a five per cent stake, just in case he fancies spending the occasional weekend in a Pontin’s chalet, with perhaps the odd knobbly-knees competition thrown in.

You wouldn’t want to bet against either of these two pulling off the same ‘buy low, sell high’ stunt at least once more. If the desire to cut down on carbon emissions doesn’t persuade people to stay at home, the prospect of struggling through the hell on earth that is Heathrow airport (especially T5) certainly will…

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