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Virgin Cruises plans to make waves

Written by Nick Blenkey
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DECEMBER 4, 2014 —If anyone in the cruise industry has been getting too comfortable, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and private equity group Bain Capital have decided to send them a wake up call with the formation of Virgin Cruises.

Sir Richard is promising to “shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love.” 

Ryan Cotton, a Principal with Bain Capital, says the cruise “industry exhibits all the characteristics of one that is ripe for a new entrant.”

Virgin Cruises will be headquartered in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area and plans to design and construct two new world class cruise ships. There’s no hint yet of which shipbuilder might be selected.

mcalpinCruise industry veteran Tom McAlpin will join Virgin Cruises as CEO and will head the management team.

Tom McAlpin

Most recently, Mr. Mcalpin has been President and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea. He has also served as President of Disney Cruise Line having joined as part of the founding management team.

Prior to joining Disney, he was director of Corporate Planning and Analysis for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line/Admiral Cruises for eight years. He began his career with KPMG and also served as Chief Financial Officer of CSB Leasing Company for three years.

Sir Richard Branson says guests will be “sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.”

At this time, the company has not disclosed when it will start operating for competitive reasons but says that “as part of one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, Virgin Cruises will offer guests an outstanding experience and service aimed at broadening consumer targets for the cruise market.”

Stephen Pagliuca, a Managing Director with Bain Capital, said, “From our earliest conversations with the Virgin team, we recognized there is a unique opportunity here to help build the next great cruise line serving travelers from around the world.  We know that thanks to the strategic vision laid out by our collective team – and now under the guidance of Tom McAlpin – Virgin Cruises will help reshape consumers’ expectations of what a cruise experience can be.  All of us at Bain Capital are thrilled to partner with the Virgin team on this compelling opportunity.”

Tom McAlpin said, “Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today, and Virgin Cruises is committed to creating breathtaking experiences for them and a new generation of guests. Opportunities like this do not come often, so I am very excited to lead this business and introduce the Virgin brand to the cruise industry, as it has always put customers at the heart of what it does.”

Ryan Cotton, a Principal with Bain Capital, said, “We are pleased to pursue this exciting opportunity with Virgin, one of the world’s most respected and iconic brands. With a small number of global players, an experience in need of refreshing, and consumers ready for something new and exciting, the industry exhibits all the characteristics of one that is ripe for a new entrant. Drawing on our long history of growing and building great companies, we are confident that together with Virgin and the management team we will build Virgin Cruises into a new favorite for leisure travelers.”

Evan Lovell, Partner at Virgin Management Limited said, “Virgin Cruises complements our extensive travel and leisure experience, which includes our award winning global airlines, passenger train service, and new hotel brand which will open its first property in Chicago next month. We are thrilled that Bain Capital is joining us on this journey.”

Allen & Company LLC is advising Virgin Group on the transaction.

Virgin Cruises team


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