Another vestige of Carlson travel empire sold: CWT to Amex spinoff for $570M – Star Tribune

Minneapolis-based CWT, a business travel and meeting management firm that was part of a prominent Minnesota family’s business legacy, will sell to rival American Express Global Business Travel for $570 million, the companies announced Monday.
The merger, which should close in the latter half of this year, blends two of the biggest corporate travel entities. CWT, formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel, started in its current form in the mid-1990s and touts 4,000 customers with a projected revenue of approximately $850 million this year. American Express spun off its global business travel (GBT) sector as a joint venture with an investor group in 2014, and GBT has rapidly grown through various mergers and acquisitions since.
CWT was not reachable for comment, including on if its global headquarters will remain in the state, if this will affect any jobs or if the CWT name will survive.
American Express said the deal means CWT customers will have access to its proprietary software and services.
“Joining forces with Amex GBT helps accelerate our vision of a tech-enabled future for business travel, where people and technology combine to deliver an exceptional customer experience,” said Patrick Andersen, CEO of CWT, in a statement. “We are highly confident in the value creation of the combined company.”
The privately held CWT — which investment funds like Redwood Capital Management, Monarch Alternative Capital and others own — will now be part of the public GBT, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 2022. That came at a time when corporate travel was still in a precarious state after grinding to a halt in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Business travel still hasn’t fully recovered to 2019 levels in terms of volume or spending, but that milestone could hit as soon as by the end of this year. So Jose Ferreira, owner of Coon Rapids-based Riverdale Travel, said this deal is timed for growth.
“For corporate travelers, I would say that service levels are going to improve,” Ferreira said. “Both of these companies are still recovering from the pandemic.”
Curt Carlson, namesake of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, started his family’s business empire during the Great Depression, eventually venturing into the travel industry about 30 years later.
In 2021, the family gave up its ownership stake in Carlson Travel Inc. and its many related companies, including CWT, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the business into bankruptcy. The family has also offloaded some of its large portfolio of hotels, including selling the Radisson Hotel Group Americas for $675 million to Choice Hotels International in 2022.
Burl Gilyard is the Star Tribune’s medtech reporter.
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