Fort Lauderdale-based luxury cruise line sold


(TVLW) – Regent Seven Seas Cruises is changing hands and the new owner, Apollo Management LP could finance more ships for the Fort Lauderdale-based luxury line.

The two companies announced a long-rumored deal on Monday for Apollo to acquire Regent from family-run Carlson Cos., of Minneapolis. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but financial Web site, which broke news of the deal in November, put the price at $1 billion.

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Regent employs about 120 people at its headquarters in the Cypress Creek area. Since it was founded as a two-ship line by the owners of the Radisson Diamond and Song of Flower ships in 1992, it has gradually modernized and upgraded its fleet, but still only has four ships under its control.

Regent Seven Seas President Mark Conroy said in a statement that he looks forward to “new financial resources available to accelerate [Regent’s] growth.”

Apollo already controls another small cruise line, Miami-based Oceania. The two lines will be run independently by Apollo’s Prestige Cruise Holdings subsidiary. Conroy and Oceania President Bob Binder will report to Prestige Chairman Frank Del Rio. Apollo also has a 50 percent stake in Miami-based NCLCorp., parent of Norwegian Cruise Line. That investment will be kept separate from Prestige, Apollo said.

Regent’s most direct competitors are already busy expanding. Four-ship Silversea Cruises in March signed a deal for a 540-passenger ship for delivery in 2009, with an option for a second ship. The first of two ships being built for Seabourn Cruise Line, owned by Carnival Corp., is also expected in 2009.

In a separate cruise industry announcement Monday, Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises said it will form a cruise joint venture with TUI Ag., the German tour and cruise operator, that would mark Royal’s first attempt at a brand specifically for the German-speaking cruise market.

Based in Hamburg, TUI Cruises will be tailored to German tastes in food, entertainment, amenities and language, with the first ship due into service in 2009. The 50-50 venture will get newly built ships in 2011 and 2012, assuming the deal gets regulatory and shareholder approval.

In late 2006, TUI and Carnival Corp. announced a similar joint venture, but Carnival called off the deal in September, citing a difficult regulatory climate in Germany and the impossibility of closing before the end of the year, an important tax consideration. Carnival already owns one German brand, Rostok, Germany-based Aida Cruises.

TUI and First Choice Holidays of the United Kingdom, combined most of their tourism activities in September. That includes First Choice Cruises, a joint venture with Royal Caribbean aimed at U.K. cruisers that uses former Royal Caribbean ships no longer competitive in North America.