Spokane Journal of Business

Ambassadors nets $71 million

Spokane travel company, with $26.5 million in sales, sells stock to fund fast growth

  • Print Article

Ambassadors International Inc., of Spokane, has completed a major public offering that has netted the company about $71 million, says Jeffrey Thomas, the companys chief financial officer.

The big travel and events coordinator, which had $26.5 million in annual revenue last year, will use nearly all of the money to fund acquisitions, Thomas says. He says that the company has discussions under way now with 10 to 14 potential acquisition targets.

Although Ambassadors probably wont buy all those companies, it does expect to close on several acquisitions within the next six to seven months, and its strategy is to grow rapidly through acquisitions, he says.

Through acquisitions, the company is looking to build more mass and distribution capacity in its business lines, Thomas says.

Ambassadors organizes and runs international educational travel programs for students and adults, arranging many trips in connection with the People to People International nonprofit organization, which has contracted with Ambassadors to arrange trips. Ambassadors also develops and manages incentive travel programstrips that companies use to reward employeesand organizes meetings, conventions, and trade shows.

It began employing its acquisition-based growth strategy following its initial public offering in 1995, Thomas says. That offering raised about $12 million, which funded six acquisitions in the last two and a half years, he says.

As a result, the company has grown to employ more than 300 people, a prospectus for Ambassadors recent stock offering says. Thats up from 140 employees in mid-1996.

Some 125 of Ambassadors employees are located in its company headquarters at 110 S. Ferrall in Spokane, Thomas says. He says that number likely will grow with the expected acquisitions. All of the companys administrative and accounting functions are handled here, as are most of the educational travel arrangements, he says, adding, We have a great work force here.

Other Ambassadors employees are located in the companys branch offices in Minneapolis; Newport Beach and Westlake, Calif.; Winnebago, Ill.; Watertown, Mass.; and Alexandria, Va., the prospectus says.The UeberrothsAmbassadors chairman is Peter Ueberroth, the former Major League Baseball commissioner and driving force behind the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and Ambassadors president and CEO is his brother John Ueberroth, the former top executive of the Carlson Travel Group.

The company, which was founded in 1967, has posted strong gains recently. For 1997, the company reported net income of $5.6 million, up 43 percent from $3.9 million in 1996, the prospectus says. Revenues grew 41 percent last year to $26.5 million. The companys stock, which trades on the NASDAQ system, has been trading at around $30 a share recently. Its most recent offering was for about 2.6 million shares.

In 1997, some 14,000 people traveled under the companys education programs, up from 12,200 in 1996, the prospectus says. Many of those participants traveled to Europe, the South Pacific including New Zealand and Australia, and China.

The company also recently has forged three strategic marketing alliances to operate travel programs, Thomas says. Those alliances are with Eddie Bauer Inc., of Redmond, Wash.; the American Youth Soccer Organization; and Yosemite National Institutes, a non-profit organization with operations in Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

A fourth such alliance is expected to be completed soon, Thomas says. That alliance would be with a major geography-oriented organization, he says, although he declines to name the organization.

Its alliances allow Ambassadors to tap into other segments of student travelerswho are into sports, adventure, and the outdoorsrather just the straight-A students that the People to People program attracts, Thomas says.

  • Marlene Mehlhaff

  • Follow RSS feed for Marlene Mehlhaff

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list