Hornblower Emerges from Bankruptcy Focusing on Sightseeing and Ferries

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Hornblower Group emerged from its bankruptcy last week approximately five months after filing a “prepackaged deal” designed to restructure the company. As part of the deal that was presented to the bankruptcy court, Hornblower narrowed its focus of operations and received a new majority owner.

The slimmed-down Hornblower operates its brand City Cruises which conducts sightseeing cruises in more than 20 U.S., Canada, and UK destinations. They also provide transportation to landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz Islands, and Niagara Falls.  The other portion of the water bourn operation is ferries and transport. The company says it services over 20 million people each year in more than 100 countries, including 50 U.S. cities 

Filing for bankruptcy in February 2024, Hornblower cited its heavy debt load and the failure of its overnight cruise lines to recover from the pandemic. American Queen Voyages separately filed for bankruptcy and was disbanded. Its paddleboat river cruise vessels were sold to American Cruise Lines which has scrapped several of the ships. The company’s two coastal cruise ships were sold to their prior owner who is promising to restart the cruise operations in 2024. A charter for an exploration cruise ship from Sunstone was canceled and this has been re-leased to a new startup cruise line in Spain.

“Today marks a new beginning for Hornblower,” said Kevin Rabbitt, Hornblower’s Chief Executive Officer, in the July 3 statement announcing the completion of the restructuring. “We have an expert team with a long history of delivering safe, world-class experiences. We have the continued support of our government agency and business partners, and we have new owners who support our strategic priorities.”

Management emphasizes that they have a focused portfolio and new financial flexibility and liquidity. As a result of the restructuring process, Hornblower reduced its total debt by approximately $720 million or more than 70 percent.

Majority ownership of Hornblower is now held by funds managed by Strategic Value Partners, a private investment firm with more than $18 billion under management. Crestview Partners, a private equity firm that acquired Hornblower in 2018, retained a minority position and took sole ownership of the tour company Journey Beyond based in Australia.

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