A former owner of Parkdean Resorts has joined the line-up of suitors for Butlin’s, the chain of holiday camps made famous by a 1980s BBC sitcom.
Sky News understands that Epiris, the private equity firm which offloaded Parkdean in 2017, is among a handful of remaining bidders for Butlin’s.
The leisure group’s other bidders include TDR Capital, owner of the Stonegate pubs empire and a major backer of the supermarket chain Asda.
Bain Capital is also understood to be among those involved in the process, which could fetch around £600m.
Butlin’s is being sold by Bourne Leisure, which also trades under the Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels brands.
Bourne’s owner, the private equity giant Blackstone, appointed Rothschild last autumn to run an auction of Butlin’s after concluding that it did not fit with the rest of the group.
Sources said there were now four or five parties left in the auction of the business.
Butlin’s, which has three sites, is one of Britain’s best-known leisure brands.
It was established in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who – according to its official history – “felt sorry for families staying in drab guest-houses with nothing much to do” during a trip to Barry Island.
In its heyday, Butlin’s operated from nine sites across the UK, entertaining one million holidaymakers each year with knobbly knees competitions and glamorous granny contests.
Staff at its resorts became known as Redcoats.
The brand became such an entrenched part of Britain’s popular consciousness that it provided the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!, the long-running BBC sitcom.
Its fortunes waned with the explosive growth of opportunities for Britons to holiday abroad, but has enjoyed a resurgence as the pandemic has fuelled a boom in staycations.
Butlin’s other sites today are at Minehead in Somerset and Bognor Regis, the traditional seaside town close to the South Downs National Park.
The surge in the domestic holidays market has spurred a deluge of corporate deals, with Blackstone itself having recently been knocked out of a £1.5bn-plus process to buy Parkdean Resorts.
Sun Communities, a New York-listed real estate investment trust, has paid £950m for Park Holidays, and a further £182m to buy Park Leisure, another operator in the sector.
Epiris and Bain declined to comment.