The chain went into administration last week, but administrator KPMG has said it’s hoping to trade out, adding that there’s been no shortage of potential buyers. It’s also insisting there’s no need for a fire sale, as Santander is happy to fund it as a going concern for several months.
Pontin’s is thought to owe Santander £40m. So who’s in the queue for a slice of the down-on-its-luck holiday camp? Indian millionaire Bhanu Choudhrie and his family's investment vehicle C&C Alpha Group is currently the prime contender – rumour has it he’s mulling a £15m bid with the Dubai royal family. Perhaps someone in the royal household sees themselves as a dead cert for the nobbly-knees competition?
That’s the only reason this interest seems to make any sense. C&C Alpha Group’s portfolio of investments ranges from spa hotels in India and Mauritius to hospitals and care homes in the UK. Perhaps it sees the 64-year-old seaside institution as sitting somewhere in the middle.
Now we appreciate that Pontin’s has 850 staff to consider, but if it didn’t it’d be hard to avoid the conclusion that it should just hang up the blue coat for good. While that would have Hi-de-Hi’s Ted Bovis spinning in his televisual grave, it surely speaks volumes that the chain has struggled even when more UK holidaymakers are deciding to stay in the country thanks to the weakness of the pound.
Still, good on KPMG for pledging to honour all bookings. No one wants their holiday messed with, and Pontin’s catered for 5,000 guests this weekend.
They could be in for a treat. Last month BBC’s Watchdog programme painted a depressing picture of squalor at the Pontin’s in Camber Sands, in which reporters also found a tablet of Temazapan. Meanwhile one Youtube user posted footage of his trip, pointing out that when he reported a bloodstain in the bathroom he was: ‘told to **** off and that I would have my legs broken in five minutes’.
Pontin’s is responsible for launching the careers of Bobby Davro and Shane Ritchie – both former bluecoats. Davro still performs there, as do Keith Harris and Orville, and X Factor’s Chico. With that kind of pedigree on display, perhaps Choudrie’s eyeing it up as his own personal plaything?