Welcome to Yorkshire: 'Numerous expressions of interest' in buying tourism agency, says administrator

"Numerous expressions of interest" have been made in buying the Welcome to Yorkshire tourist agency, the lead administrator dealing with the collapsed firm has said.

Rob Adamson of Armstrong Watson LLP told The Yorkshire Post that administrators hope to conclude the sales process for the company by the end of this month with different prospective buyers interested in both the business's assets and the possibility of buying the entire company.

"We have had numerous expressions of interest to buy the business outright," he said.

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The firm, which is the region's official tourism agency, was placed into administration at the start of this month after council leaders determined they would no longer fund the organisation and instead look to establish a replacement body. Welcome to Yorkshire is a private company but had been reliant on millions of pounds of funding from the public sector, chiefly through local councils.

Several potential buyers are interested in taking over Welcome to Yorkshire, administrators have claimed.

Mr Adamson said he could not disclose the details of any of the interested parties due to non-disclosure agreements.

The Yorkshire Leaders' Board, made up of council leaders and the region's two metro mayors, has already indicated it is interested in buying Welcome to Yorkshire assets including the organisation's name. It has been mooted the replacement body could also be called Welcome to Yorkshire.

A spokesperson for the Leaders Board said it was awaiting details of the administrators' valuation of Welcome to Yorkshire assets before making any further decisions.

"The administrators have not yet released the inventory of assets and valuations. The Yorkshire Leaders Board will consider the options this presents when it is available," they said.

Mr Adamson also confirmed a further two redundancies have been made at the firm following 11 at the start of the administration process but said there is "no intention" for any further job cuts at this stage. It means staff numbers have fallen from 23 to just 10 as a result of the administration.

When asked whether it was likely the existing business will end up being liquidated given the plan by council leaders to set up a different destination marketing organisation, Mr Adamson said: "The administrators are in dialogue with the interested parties, and it is too early in the process to comment on the likely outcome."

The council leaders' decision to end funding for Welcome to Yorkshire followed a £25,000 review ordered by the board and conducted by Merran McRae, a former chief executive of Wakefield and Calderdale councils. The decision followed years of reputational and financial troubles for the agency, which is a private company but receives millions in public funding.

After being established as the successor organisation to the Yorkshire Tourist Board, it was originally led by Sir Gary Verity who received a knighthood for bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014. But he left the organisation on health grounds in 2019 amidst concerns about expense spending and the treatment of staff.

His successor James Mason joined Welcome to Yorkshire in January 2020 but left the organisation last October in the midst of an investigation into an unspecified complaint. Four board members resigned in connection with Mr Mason's departure and he was not replaced as chief executive.

It is intended that a new Destination Marketing Organisation to promote Yorkshire will be established in its place by council bosses. An initial meeting is planned in May to agree the timeline for establishing the new organisation.