Sol Kerzner, the South African entertainment magnate, and Andrea Bonomi, the Italian banking grandee, have launched a joint €790m (£630m) bid for Club Med, the package holiday giant.
Mr Bonomi is leading the move, which pits his Italian private equity firm Investindustrial Development against a consortium of French and Chinese investors. He and Mr Kerzner have offered €21 a share for Club Méditerranée.
The Italian-led approach is 20 per cent higher than an earlier €17.50-a-share offer from Gaillon, a group backed by investors including China’s Fosun International and the French private equity firm Ardian, formerly known as Axa Private Equity.
Investindustrial faced a deadline of yesterday under French regulatory rules to make a formal bid after a five-week period of due diligence.
Mr Bonomi, a former chairman of Banca Popolare di Milano, made his move just as the summer holiday season is about to start in earnest.
His group heads a consortium, called Global Resorts, which recently increased its stake in Club Med to about 10 per cent, making it the top shareholder.
Investindustrial owns 91 per cent of Global Resorts. Mr Kerzner, a South African mogul, and the amusement park operator PortAventura are among those who hold the remainder. Mr Kerzner has caused controversy in Britain because of his efforts to launch super-casinos.
The French regulator demanded that Club Med shares should be suspended until Investindustrial gave more details of its offer. Mr Bonomi has said he would only seek an amicable approach.
Investindustrial has already pledged to invest an extra €150m in Club Med and six new holiday “villages”. Club Med would not have to pay dividends for seven years and so could “devote its resources to its development”.
Investindustrial, which also has a stake in the luxury car-maker Aston Martin, has a war chest for acquisitions.
It sold the motorcycle maker Ducati to Volkswagen two years ago and the helicopter services company Avincis to Babcock International this year. Fosun International and Ardian made an initial €17-a-share offer last year for Club Med and subsequently improved it.