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Lindblad Expeditions and Capitol Acquisition Corp. II have announced an agreement to merge in a transaction valued at approximately $439 million. In conjunction with the merger, Lindblad and National Geographic are extending their partnership until the end of 2025. Following the merger, the cruise line will go public on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the new name of Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc.
Lindblad is synonymous with expedition travel after nearly 40 years of exploring the globe. Its cruise destinations range from the Galapagos, Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon and Alaska to locations in Europe. And its dedicated specialty has become one of the most burgeoning market segments in travel. Adventure travel has grown 65 percent annually from 2009 to 2012 into an approximately $263 billion industry, according to the Adventure Tourism Market Study conducted by George Washington University and the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
What’s more, Cruise Line International Association’s (CLIA) Cruise Industry Outlook for 2015 indicates that specialty cruises have grown annually by around 21 percent from 2009 to 2014.
“Expedition travel is among the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry,” said Mark Ein, chairman and CEO of Capitol Acquisition Corp. II. “Lindblad is exactly the kind of investment opportunity that we were looking for. The company has significant excess demand for its voyages, and we believe our merger will provide substantial new resources to position the company for accelerated future growth.”
Sven-Olof Lindblad, president of Lindblad Expeditions, said the move will bring the company to critical mass. Lindblad is looking at a number of options, but one definite move is an order for two new 100-passenger vessels. The first is scheduled for May 2017, the second for 2018. These will not be polar ships — Lindblad already has two — but they will substantially increase the company’s ability to introduce guests to the extraordinary character of the natural world, a clear goal from the line’s launch.
Capitol will have 50 percent of the stock. The current owners and shareholders will retain 49 percent, and National Geographic will own the final one percent. Lindblad’s owners will also receive a $90 million cash payment at closing.
Lindblad and his team will continue to lead the combined company. He will own 29 percent of the stock, and he says he will continue to be able to plan with flexibility and respond to opportunities to share with his exploration-minded guests, as he has done in the past.
“Our secret sauce is the ability to tap into the traveler’s psyche and link it to the natural life on earth,” Lindblad said. “Some people worry that the character of the company will change, but that’s not going to happen. Our value lies in what we have always done.”