Virgin Voyages (the “Company”), the multi, award-winning cruise brand from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, today announced it has closed on a $550 million capital raise to accelerate its growth plans. The funding round was led by funds managed by the Private Equity Group of Ares Management (“Ares”), a leading global alternative investment manager, and also includes additional capital from existing investors including Virgin Group and Bain Capital. The new funding raise will enable Virgin Voyages to strengthen its financial position while supporting the brand’s rapid expansion into international markets, with a relentless focus on creating an outstanding and innovative customer experience.
As Virgin Voyages looks ahead to its next phase of growth, the Company further announced that founding Chief Executive Officer, Tom McAlpin, is retiring as CEO and transitioning to the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors. He will continue to support the brand and team at an executive and industry level. Nirmal Saverimuttu, who currently serves as President and Chief Experience Officer, has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer.
“It is hard to express just how proud I am of all that the Virgin Voyages Crew has created and the strong endorsement we are receiving from Ares. We have won numerous industry awards and received many five-star reviews because of our passion for this brand,” said McAlpin. “While I will miss the day-to-day, I believe it is the right time to step aside as CEO. Nirmal is a great friend and experienced leader who lives and breathes the Virgin Voyages culture. I know he will help take this amazing brand and Crew to new heights, and I look forward to continuing to support the leadership team as Chairman.”
Virgin Voyages officially launched in August 2021 and currently operates three ships, servicing the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and by the end of the year, Australia and New Zealand. The brand is already making waves, including being named No. 1 in the mega-ship category in the 2023 Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards and a recent clean-sweep of the five cruise categories in the 2023 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards.
“With this new investment alongside our partners at Virgin Group and Bain Capital, we believe the Company is on strong footing to capitalize on its differentiated product and value proposition in the growing cruise industry,” said Aaron Rosen, Partner and Co-Portfolio Manager of Special Opportunities in the Ares Private Equity Group. “We believe that Virgin Voyages continues to be at the forefront of industry growth, and we look forward to working with Tom, Nirmal and the entire management team on this next chapter,” added Jordan Smith, Partner in the Ares Private Equity Group.
“The success of this capital raise shows how much Virgin Voyages has achieved and how much further it can go. We are very proud of the experience that Virgin Voyages has created and continues to deliver every day across its fleet,” said Josh Bayliss, CEO of the Virgin Group. “At Virgin, we have always aimed to create extraordinary experiences and challenge the status quo while putting purpose at the core of everything we do. With Tom at the helm, Virgin Voyages has established itself as a company that can do that consistently. We are so grateful for his and the team’s leadership in creating a truly brilliant business and look forward to this next phase of the Company’s growth.”
Saverimuttu was a founding leader of Virgin Voyages and joined the business as Chief Commercial Officer in 2014 from the Virgin Group after successfully closing the first investment round. In early 2021, he took on the expanded role of President and Chief Experience Officer.
“I want to send our deepest thanks, on behalf of all our Crew and the Board, to Tom for his leadership and passion for the business. We are so grateful for all he has done and are thrilled to continue to partner with him as our Chairman,” said Saverimuttu. “Virgin Voyages is a beloved brand because of our Crew’s dedication and passion for delivering epic experiences for our guests. I am looking forward to working with the Ares team and our existing investors to deliver on our growth and expansion plans as we look ahead to our very bright future.”
Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC served as exclusive financial advisor and sole placement agent to Virgin Voyages. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel to Virgin Voyages. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP served as legal counsel to Ares.