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BGF invests £15m into Yorkshire Wildlife Park

BGF News 02.09.2020.

BGF invested £15m into Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) shortly before the country locked down.

This weekend, the Park is set to welcome visitors to new attractions, such as the Himalayan Pass and Experience Ethiopia, which opened earlier this month. People can now view hyenas, red pandas and smooth-coated otters at the Yorkshire attraction.
Despite the well-documented challenges facing the business and wider sector, BGF has supported the Park and enabled the expansion development to continue. Based on visitor reviews, this week YWP was ranked within the top 10% of visitor attractions globally by the Travellers’ Choice Awards.

Set up in 2008 by founder directors Steve Minion, John Minion, Cheryl Williams and Neville Williams, Yorkshire Wildlife Park is located in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. YWP is a dynamic, interactive centre for animal conservation and welfare, home to more than 450 animals and over 70 different species. With a staff of 300, the park has made a significant contribution to the local economy over the last eleven years and in 2019 hosted educational visits of more than 88,000 school children with more than 33,000 of those learners benefitting from its award-winning education programmes taught by the Education Team.

BBC Countryfile presenter, Helen Skelton visited the award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park to open two new reserves as part of the park’s summer expansion.

Alongside BGF, Lloyds Bank has also committed an £18m debt facility which, together with BGF’s investment, will support the expansion of YWP’s existing park with the aim of doubling its size and significantly increasing the annual visitor numbers from 750,000 to 1.5 million. At the new entrance to the Park, there will also be a new and free to enter boutique leisure destination, expected to attract its own local audience as well as providing unique facilities for the day visitors to the Wildlife Park.

This phased development will ultimately include a new experiential themed restaurant with an adjacent giant children’s playbarn, two other restaurants, a new lightly wildlife-themed hotel, a lifestyle retail offering and a flexible venue for conferences and events. The new development will cater for both the family and corporate market.
As part of the deal, Steve Brown, a founding director of Center Parcs UK and non-executive Chair of BGF-backed holiday park developer Coppergreen, has also joined the YWP board as non-executive Chair.

John Minion, CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Park, commented: “Our founding mission at YWP was to create a dynamic wildlife experience that contributes to the conservation of biodiversity on a global scale. Thanks to the hard work of a talented and driven local team, we have developed an award-winning, interactive park with ground-breaking animal reserves and facilities that plays a vital role in both the local economy and international welfare programmes. We’re delighted to welcome BGF on board to support our plans to expand our offering to position YWP as a destination, providing one of the stand-out visitor experiences in the country.”

Barry Jackson, Investor at BGF, commented: “Over the last eleven years, YWP has earned an international reputation for conservation, animal welfare and high-quality visitor experiences. John and the team have an ambitious and clear strategy for growth, and we’re delighted to be supporting the business as it expands its facilities to be able to rescue more animals and allow more visitors to be educated and inspired by its conservation efforts.”
Visitors to the Wildlife Park also help raise funds through donations for the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation. This charity was created in 2013 to be a catalyst for inspiring people to support conservation and welfare. Through working with conservation charities and organisations, the Foundation currently supports projects on every continent except Antarctica. The Foundation aims to promote and advance the conservation and welfare of endangered wildlife in their natural habitat and in captivity, as well as to educate and inspire the public.
The investment was led for BGF by Barry Jackson and Mark Rigby.

The advisors to the transaction were:
BGF: Gordons (legal)
Yorkshire Wildlife Park: Shoosmiths (legal)
Lloyds: Addleshaw Goddard (legal)