Firebird Partnership announces ‘successful exit’ plan for French Waterways

The Firebird Partnership has announced the “achievement of a successful exit” for inland cruising specialist French Waterways.

A spokesperson for French Waterways said the deal would enable the organisation to “enhance our offerings” and “deepen our relationship with our clients and partners”.

French Waterways founders James and Ruth Newcombe will lead an initial six-month transition period before taking up different roles in the company, alongside managing director Rosie Mansfield, who joins the board as chief executive.

Firebird co-founder Ian Finlay becomes non-executive chairman.

Mansfield said: “This is an amazing business, a leader in an exceptional travel sector field.

“I am looking forward tremendously to engaging with French Waterways’ supplier-partners, working with the talented and committed team, and, most of all, talking to clients from all around the world.”

The Newcombes will work alongside the new board to “introduce and enhance” the existing commercial relationships they have developed over the past two decades.

After six months they will then take up ‘ambassador’ roles to further promote the company and river cruising in France.

James Newcombe said: “With the success and global reputation that our business has built has come a matching need to expand and develop, and we have been investigating suitable potential partners for at least the last two years.

“We have been especially concerned to maintain the support and commitment of our wonderful team, some of whom have been with us since the beginning.

“With Firebird, we have found a marvellous mixture of travel sector understanding, commercial acumen and hands-on client focus. Both Ruth and I are confident and excited for the future of the business, for our colleagues and our very special clients.”

The Firebird Partnership was founded in 2020 by Ian Finlay and Stewart Lambert, offering a consulting and corporate finance advisory service specialising in the travel, hospitality, leisure and education markets.

It has grown to encompass a team of directors including Chris Thompson, Safia Bhutta, Matt Purser, Lucy Haines, Mark Bush and Gordon Mathie.

Together they work with businesses to “deliver rapid growth and take companies forward”.

French Waterways was launched by the Newcombes after their first channel crossing in 2003 and now offers hotel barge cruising, self-drive cruising and river cruising through online bookings.

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