Cruise firm begun in a garage is sold to online company

DEAL Jenny and Gary West
DEAL Jenny and Gary West
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A TRAVEL company that started life in a garage in 2005 has been sold to form the UK’s largest independent cruise agent.

Planet Cruise was started by former P&O sales manager Jenny West and her husband Gary, and in the past eight years has grown to become one of the UK’s leading cruise specialists.

The firm, based in North Harbour, arranges luxury holidays on board dozens of ships around the world, selling its holidays through regular TV slots.

It is on course to turn over £38m in the year to August 2013, and has 75 staff, all of whom will stay.

It has been bought by Iglu.com for an undisclosed sum, with financial backing from Growth Capital Partners.

Planet Cruise’s managing director, Gary West, said: ‘Combining Iglu’s online capabilities and our strength on television is an exciting prospect.

‘There is a natural fit in the two businesses coming together and we as a team here at Planet Cruise look forward to creating a new market leader.’

Iglu.com was founded by Richard Downs in 1998, during his final year of an MBA, and has acquired Planet Cruise to create a company with combined sales of £135m, which he hopes will increase to £500m within five years.

He added: ‘Planet Cruise is an impressive business that has seen a dramatic increase in turnover in the last five years. With suppliers increasingly focusing on their larger, more efficient and proactive retail partners this acquisition will secure Iglu’s place at the front of this strategic group.’

Gary and Jenny West will remain with the combined firm.