The UK boat rental and yacht charter firm, Borrow A Boat, has been bought by CEO and founder Matt Ovenden and a group of investors

Borrow A Boat, which describes itself as the UK’s leading boat rental and yacht charter marketplace, has been bought by a group of investors and CEO and founder Matt Ovenden.

Ovenden’s new company TB Engine has now acquired the business and assets of Borrow A Boat in a pre-pack process, but not the financial liability associated with the charter firm.

A pre-pack process is an arrangement under which the sale of all or part of a company’s business or assets is negotiated with a purchaser prior to the appointment of the administrator, and the sale contract executed on the appointment of the administrator or very shortly afterwards.

Ovenden has confirmed to PBO that Borrow A Boat will continue trading “uninterrupted without any impact on existing customer bookings”.

The 19 employees of Borrow A Boat have been transferred to TB Engine

Since 2017, Borrow A Boat – which offers access to more than 45,000 boats in over 65 countries – has raised millions of pounds in investment, with £7.8 million coming from crowdfunding.

In the last few years, Borrow A Boat acquired HELM, Barqo – the Dutch boating marketplace – and Beds on Board, after successfully raising £1.5 million. This also enabled it to expand into the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

HELM has now been re-acquired by the company’s founders, Peter Harrison-Hill and Simon Morgan.

They will resume the day-to-day running of the international yacht charter brokerage and are keen to emphasise that existing HELM charters remain unaffected.

In June 2022, Borrow A Boat launched a further £750,000 crowdfunding round with London-based investment crowdfunding platform Seedrs to expand into Italy, France, Germany and Spain.

At the time, Ovenden, said the business had “made huge strides forward in the last six months – continually smashing our all-time sales records month-on-month towards the end of 2021 and we’re now, in 2022, consistently clearing £1 million a month in revenue.”

At the start of 2023, Borrow A Boat announced it was heading for “significant growth” in 2023, after posting a “record-breaking” year of £12m in sales and bookings in 2022 and year-on-year revenue growth of over 400%. Sales in January 2023 were reported as £3 million.

The acquisition of KellyBoat in 2022 resulted in the launch of Borrow A Boat’s US office, initially focussed on boat hires in New England and Palm Beach.

Borrow A Boat said the rise of interest from the US has seen bookings across Europe. Greece and Croatia top the list.

The strength of the dollar versus the euro had also further fuelled the growth in clientele from the US.

According to records held by Companies House, Borrow A Boat went into administration on 30 March 2023.

Company creditors are owed £422,062. The biggest creditor is HM Revenue and Customs, which is owed £225,049 in Income Tax and National Insurance. Loan company Juice Ventures Ltd is owed £81,567.

Records held by Companies House show Borrow A Boat made a net loss of £772,895 at the end of 30 November 2020, and a net loss of £869,150 at the end of November 2021.

Matt Ovenden and the other directors of Borrow A Boat blame the challenging Venture Capital fundraising market for the company entering administration; the lead investor pulled out in February 2023, leaving the directors needing to raise £1 million, which was unsuccessful.

This meant it was also unable to pay the loan company, Juice Ventures Ltd, which took steps to issue a winding -up petition for the recovery of their debt. Administrators were appointed shortly afterwards.

Following the change in ownership, the new company “plans to focus on digital growth and tech-powered scalable automation with minimum reliance on external capital, to grow as efficiently as possible through digital channels.”

“The business’ approximately 3,000 original crowdfunding benefactors will also be brought over to the new entity, in a move set to reflect and reward their support from the outset of the business.”

Founder and CEO Matt Ovenden said, “We’re looking to optimise the technology to create super lean operations and scalable digital growth, minimising reliance on external investment. We’re delighted that we’ve been able to save the business and give it a future for the employees and crowdfunders, and are excited about the digital growth we can now look to achieve in this massive global market.”

NOTE: This article was updated on 25 May 2023, following further details about TB Engine’s acquisition of Borrow A Boat and to update the date Borrow A Boat went into administration which was the 30 March 2023 not 18 April 2023 as previous stated

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