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Carlson jumps ship with sale of cruise line

MINNETONKA Minn. T.G.I. Friday’s parent company Carlson Cos. has agreed to sell its Regent Seven Seas Cruises to Apollo Management LP, the seller said Monday.

The deal marks  Carlson’s exit from the cruise business, a move that will allow the Minnetonka-based company to focus on its hotels and business travel enterprises, chairman and CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson said in a statement.

Carlson’s restaurant division, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, operates, franchises or licenses the Friday’s and Pick Up Stix concepts. The parent company’s other brands include Regent Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Country Inn & Suites and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Neither Carlson nor Apollo disclosed the sale price of the four-ship fleet, though at least one source pegged it at $1 billion. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008. Regent Seven Seas is the third cruise line acquired this year by Apollo, a private-equity investor in the leisure and hospitality industries.

Carlson, which entered the cruise business in 1992, is interested in expanding its hotel business to China and India, Nelson said in the statement.

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