Update: Smooth Sale-ing? New Deal to Sell Windstar Cruises

May 19, 2011

Update, May 19: In a surprise move, Anschutz Corp. has outbid Whipporwill Associates Inc. at auction to buy Ambassador's International Inc., the parent company of Windstar Cruises. The sale, for $39 million in cash, is expected to close on Monday, May 23. In a short statement, Ambassadors noted that Windstar, which runs three upscale motorized sailing yachts, will continue to operate as scheduled.

(April 22, 3 p.m. EDT) -- Three weeks after Seattle-based Ambassadors International, the parent company of Windstar Cruises, filed for bankruptcy, the sale of the three-ship line is moving forward.

According to a press release from Ambassadors, the sale to Whippoorwill Associates Inc., a private equity firm based in White Plains, New York, is expected to be completed by May 23.

Not everyone wanted the sale to be finalized so quickly. According to a recent Bloomberg News report, Windstar's creditors argued in bankruptcy court that the sale should be delayed by at least 30 days so the new buyer, which is Windstar's largest shareholder, could be more closely investigated. In an April 19 ruling, a judge sided with Ambassadors, saying there were "exigent circumstances for an expeditious sale."

In other words, Windstar might not survive if the sale was delayed. Bloomberg reported that Ambassadors and Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz said during questioning that the company could run out of cash by the middle of May.

Other entities still have a chance to purchase the line's sailing assets, and an auction will take place May 16 to see if any suitors are willing to outbid Whippoorwill. The next hearing to consider the sale has been scheduled for May 18.

So ... what about Windstar's upcoming cruises?

As it did on April 1, the line states that cruises are unaffected by the proceedings. "This legal process should have no impact on your travel plans," wrote Birkholz in a letter sent to travel agents and booked passengers. "We are sailing all cruises as scheduled, maintaining our on board staffing levels, providing commissions and payments to our travel partners as usual and employee wages and benefits without interruption. We are fully focused on serving our customers and guests." Whippoorwill could not be reached for comment.

At this time, Windstar's normal cancellation terms and conditions apply.

Still, those worried should remember: For cruises purchased and deposits made by credit card, most credit card issuers offer protection in the event that purchaser does not receive the goods or services purchased.

--by Dan Askin, News Editor