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Drayton Manor sold to West Midland Safari Park owners

By John Corser | Staffordshire | Attractions | Published:

Drayton Manor Park has been sold to the firm which owns West Midland Safari Park - and all staff will be kept on, says the company.

Drayton Manor Park has new owners

Buyers, the Looping Group, will retain Drayton Manor’s 599 employees as part of the buy-out under the same terms and conditions.

It also says it has very ambitious development plans to ensure the park’s long-term sustainability and make it an even more attractive leisure destination for families.

The acquisition of the Staffordshire theme park, with its more than 100 rides and attractions, Europe’s only Thomas Land, a 15-acre conservation zoo and four-star hotel, will make it the largest and one of the flagships in the Looping Group’s portfolio, which also includes Pleasurewood Hills in the UK. It was sold to the firm for an undisclosed fee.

The theme park and zoo, which attract more than a million visitors in a normal year and is celebrating its 70th anniversary, has confirmed it will operate under the company name of Drayton Manor Resort .

The Bryan family, who have owned and run Drayton Manor Park since it first opened to the public in 1950, will remain a key part of the management structure under the new ownership, with William Bryan retaining his role as managing director.

Mr Bryan said: “Like many businesses, we have faced challenges over recent months, but the sale to the Looping Group is an exciting and positive new chapter for Drayton Manor Park.

“For us, finding a buyer who would protect jobs was key, as was finding one who would continue to operate and develop the Drayton Manor Park our guests know and love.

“Looping Group’s commitment towards a very ambitious investment plan and its pledge to reinvest profits primarily back into the park, made it a natural and very appealing fit for us.

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Drayton Manor has been bought by Looping Group

“The Bryan family was always committed to making the park one of the UK’s leading attractions and, under the Looping Group, we look forward to developing the family-friendly offering for many years to come.”

Laurent Bruloy, chief executive of the Looping Group, said: “We are thrilled and proud to welcome Drayton Manor Park and its talented team to our group.

“I would like to commend the Bryan family who has, over three generations, been developing the park and made it one of the most beautiful references of our industry in the UK. We are deeply respectful about all that has been achieved by the teams.

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“We aim to continue the story and support Drayton Manor’s development with the same entrepreneurial DNA and values that we share whilst keeping the strong local anchorage of the resort.

“Our aim is to provide visitors with an unforgettable, fun and entertaining family day out. The park’s offering is the perfect fit with us, with its extensive range of award-winning rides and attractions including Europe’s first and only Thomas Land.”

Mike Denny, joint administrator and PricewaterhouseCoopers director, said: “The group had been facing exceptionally challenging trading conditions. In February, Storm Dennis forced the Park to close unexpectedly, whilst its planned reopening in March was delayed due to Covid-19.

"These factors combined exacerbated cash flow pressures on the group.

Delighted

“We are delighted to have helped secure a sale which preserves 599 jobs and ensures the survival of a much-loved leisure attraction that is steeped in history and heritage.

"The purchasers will be working with the existing management team to continue to grow and develop the business, we wish them every future success.”

The theme park has been operated by the Bryan family since it was founded by George and Vera Bryan in 1950. It reopened to the public on July 4 after several months of enforced closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Nottingham-based Mellors Group, which took over Fantasy Island on the East Coast in 2016, was understood to have been positioning itself to acquire the Tamworth attraction and had registered the company Drayton Manor Operations Ltd on July 13.

Drayton Manor, which reported a loss of £1.8 million in the year to February 2019, is currently open seven days a week and is operating as normal.

Looping bought the safari park in January last year for an undisclosed sum.

Mike Denny and Peter Dickens of PwC were appointed as joint administrators of the companies today and immediately announced the sale of the business to Drayton Manor Resort, a wholly owned subsidiary of Looping Parks UK

All trading aspects of the group remain in operation as usual, with existing bookings being honoured.

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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