Kartesia, the European specialist provider of capital solutions for small and mid-sized companies, is pleased to announce it has entered into exclusive discussions regarding the contemplated acquisition of the majority of Groupe Thoiry’s share capital. Following the completion of the transaction, Kartesia would become the new majority shareholder of the renowned operator of three wildlife parks, taking over from current majority shareholder Ekkio Capital, and minority stakeholders BNP Paribas and IDF Capital. Reinvesting alongside Kartesia as minority stakeholders would be Ekkio Capital, the management team, and the de La Panouse family, which founded the business in 1967. Kartesia would be investing from its KCO strategy and would be acting as sole lender.
Groupe Thoiry operates three wildlife parks: Thoiry near Paris, Peaugres near Lyon, both in France, and Santo Inacio near Porto, Portugal. All three sites offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience wildlife up close and in nature, in a setting prioritising the welfare and wellbeing of the animals living in its premises. The Group prizes its ecological and welfare standards, which are recognized throughout the entire industry and reflected in the leading quality and size of the infrastructure provided to the animals. The Group is at the forefront of the significant ESG trends driving the industry over the past few years and actively advocating biodiversity preservation and education towards the general public – setting its core societal mission as its main development driver.
In the last seven years since Ekkio Capital’s investment, each of the three wildlife parks have experienced strong growth, benefitting from significant upgrades in facilities and increased visitor demand for responsible and wildlife experiences. Following the pandemic, the Western European population is increasingly looking for new and differentiating outside experiences, seeking to spend more time in nature and to be educated on biodiversity and wildlife, setting a favourable market environment going forward to the Group.
The Group has also been a trailblazer for innovation in the sector, including its famous Light Festival, organized throughout the winter season, with a wide range of animal lanterns spread across the parks, creating a magical experience for visitors. Overnight alternative accommodation has also been recently developed in Thoiry and Peaugres, offering visitors a unique environment to spend the night and creating a whole new and exclusive experience for visitors outside of regular openings hours. Although opened less than a year ago, the alternative accommodation offering has experienced a very strong ramp-up and is meeting an exponential market demand.
Looking ahead, there are numerous areas that Kartesia and management would plan to develop. Additional unique accommodation offering will be developed across the Group’s sites, with an emphasis on originality and quality. The various sites will also expand their addressable visitors’ base, accelerating their offering for corporates, whether organising seminars or other special events. Alongside those initiatives, and in line with the shared core DNA of Kartesia and the Group, the sites would continue to increase their investment to ensure that the animals’ facilities and caretakers’ training are at the highest standards, in order to continue to strengthen Groupe Thoiry’s presence as the leader in wildlife preservation and provide unique consumer experiences.
Damien Scaillierez, Managing Partner at Kartesia said, “Groupe Thoiry’s sites are renowned for providing visitors with a unique opportunity to get close to and learn about wildlife, however this commitment to visitor experience is only outweighed by the commitment they have shown to ensuring the welfare and conservation of animals. Kartesia is confident that these factors create a truly compelling experience across the leisure market, and that with our investment the parks will continue to see growing visitor numbers and future success.”
Christelle Bercheny, CEO of Groupe Thoiry, “For the past 3 years, Ekkio Capital and the de La Panouse family have trusted me to lead Groupe Thoiry, which Paul de La Panouse often refers to as his Noah’s Ark. I sincerely thank them for this. This great adventure, marked by numerous strategic developments in close partnership with the founding family and the sites’ teams, will now take a new turn with Kartesia, aiming to progress these incredible sites further and perpetuate the DNA of Groupe Thoiry. I renew my commitment to this ambitious objective, driven, first and foremost, by our mission to protect and expand biodiversity.”
Nicolas Beaugendre, Ekkio Capital, adds “Thanks to the numerous investments performed since 2015, Groupe Thoiry’s sites now welcome over 1 million visitors per annum. We are particularly happy to have accompanied this successful development over the past 7 years. The ability to offer to the public innovative and immersive experiences in large natural settings, made it possible for the parks to come back to the forefront of the industry. The development plan devised by the Management team and supported by the new majority shareholder will be enabled by deeper financial and operational means, which will make it possible to develop a new range of responsible leisure opportunities and reinforce the Groupe Thoiry’s mission in supporting biodiversity preservation.”
Paul de La Panouse, concludes , “Our family manages the cultural events in the ancestral castle located on the historical domain of Thoiry, next to the Thoiry wildlife park. In 1968, I invented specific animal conservation techniques which made it possible to gather exotic and wild animals, roaming free in large natural premises. Visitors now cross their territory either by car, on elevated pathways within the trees or through glass tunnels. Our Noah’s arks, protecting endangered species, participate to the protection of our planet’s biodiversity. in Thoiry but also in Peaugres, Ardèche, created in 1974 and in Santo Inacio, Portugal, which we took over in 2014. We thank Ekkio and the managers, supported by BNP Paribas and Île de France Capital, for perpetuating the development of our group. We welcome Kartesia as the new majority shareholder for the group, as they will offer the parks the appropriate means to further enhance the economic development of our sites by fully revealing the touristic potential of our ethical commitment towards animal preservation. The ecological quality of our natural spaces, be it through flora or fauna, and the elegant integration of accommodation within the heart of our animals’ territories will fully benefit the expansion of the group. Colomba and Edmond de La Panouse, as minority shareholders of the group and landlords of the historical Thoiry site, are happy to accompany them on this promising path.”