(9:28 a.m. EST) -- Royal Caribbean Group is selling its Azamara cruise line to Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm specializing in consumer, retail and distribution investments.The deal will be "an all-cash carve-out transaction" for $201 million, subject to certain adjustments and closing conditions. Sycamore Partners will acquire the entire Azamara brand, including its three-ship fleet and associated intellectual property. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. No information has been given on how the sale affects cruises that have already been booked on Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and Azamara Pursuit. The move will allow RCG to focus on expanding its Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea brands, the line said in a statement."Our strategy has evolved into placing more of our resources behind three global brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea, and working to grow them as we emerge from this unprecedented period," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Caribbean Group."Even so, Azamara remains a strong brand with its own tremendous potential for growth, and Sycamore's track record demonstrates that they will be good stewards of what the Azamara team has built over the past 13 years.""We are pleased that Royal Caribbean Group has entrusted Sycamore to support Azamara in its next phase of growth," said Stefan Kaluzny, Managing Director of Sycamore Partners. "We are excited to partner with the Azamara team and build on their many years of success serving the brand's loyal customers. We believe Azamara will remain a top choice for discerning travelers as the cruising industry recovers over time."The founder and CEO of Azamara -- and in many ways the face of the line, Larry Pimental -- left in April last year. A few month earlier, it had dropped the word "Cruises" from its name in a bid to rebrand as more of a land-based operation which also offered cruises.Though small, with just three ships, it had a very loyal following and active Cruise Critic Boards members. People loved the small ships, all of them former Renaissance vessels affectionately known as R-class ships, as well as the line's focus on destinations. One Chucktown Steve spoke for many when he wrote: "What does private-equity firm Sycamore Partners know about cruising and what the customers want? Equity firms only want one thing. Profits at any cost. There goes Azamara. I wonder how many of the great staff will jump ship, literally?"Royal Caribbean Group said it would work in close collaboration on a "seamless transition" for Azamara employees, customers and other stakeholders. In conjunction with the transaction, Azamara Chief Operating Officer Carol Cabezas has been appointed President of the brand.The transaction will result in a one-time, non-cash impairment charge of approximately $170 million. The sale of Azamara is not expected to have a material impact on Royal Caribbean Group's future financial results, the line stated.
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