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Austin Travel quietly sold months ago

Larry Austin

Larry Austin Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Austin Travel, Long Island’s largest such agency and a powerhouse in the industry for nearly half a century, was quietly sold to Manhattan-based Protravel International Inc. — last July!

Larry Austin, chairman of the 56-year-old LI company, admitted late last week that he did not say a word publicly about the sale. He acknowledged the deal in response to a question from a reporter. “It’s absolutely correct,” said Austin. “It’s a great deal we made.”

Asked why he had not disclosed the sale, Austin said “We’ve been so busy. I never put it out.”
In a news release dated July 6, Protravel announced the deal but did not disclose terms. Protravel founder and president Priscilla Alexander said her company would be “sensitive to Austin’s long-established business practices.”

Austin said his company’s sales were about $100 million annually. Protravel’s website says its sales are “approaching the $600 million mark.”

In addition to the sale, Austin said his agency will be moving from its offices at 256 Spagnoli Rd. in Melville, where it has been for the past 15 years, to Protravel’s Syosset office. Austin said all 100 Austin Travel employees will retain their jobs, at the Syosset facility. Protravel has about 20 employees in Syosset and 900 in offices across the country and in Europe. The move is scheduled for the summer.

Austin acknowledged that the travel business has become extremely challenging in the past few years, given the recession and the competition from the Internet.

“That’s why we had to do the deal” with Protravel, Austin said. “We needed more strength. We’ve got to have bigger relations with the airlines.”

The company is now known as Austin Travel, a Protravel International Company.
Austin said his three sons — Jeff, who is president; Jamie, senior vice president of sales, and Stewart, who is in charge of technology — will remain with the company. Austin said he will remain too, but it was not clear for how long. “I’m trying hard to ease off,” he said, adding he is now teaching a leadership course at Stony Brook University. “It’s a ball,” he said.

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