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Vacasa hires new CFO, alludes to possible IPO

A McCall vacation rental from Vacasa. Photo courtesy of Vacasa

Despite nationwide reduced business or pleasure travel due to COVID-19, vacation rental company Vacasa has “had steady record reservation volume,” and announced it hired a new chief financial officer who may help take the company public.

Vacasa has hired Jamie Cohen, the former CFO of ANGI Homeservices (NASDAQ: ANGI), described as a leading digital home services marketplace. Cohen’s notable experience includes holding “an instrumental role in the reverse merger of HomeAdvisor with Angie’s List, and the simultaneous public offering of ANGI Homeservices,” according to a Vacasa press release. Cohen contributed in other acquisitions, debt financing and building the company’s finance and accounting functions.

photo of jamie cohen

Jamie Cohen

“During my nearly 10 years at ANGI Homeservices, I oversaw key financial initiatives including multiple acquisitions, the company’s public offering and its growth from $200 million to $1.4 billion in revenue,” Cohen said in an email message. “My experience with a rapidly growing company, using technology to transform a fragmented, largely offline industry, aligns nicely with Vacasa’s market opportunity and roadmap and will allow me to be a strategic partner to all departments, from sales and customer service to marketing and product.”

When shelter-in-place orders began lifting, “there was immediate, pent-up demand as people looked for a change of scenery,” according to Vacasa. Professionally managed vacation rentals in remote destinations became the preferred accommodation choice, in part because families have use of the entire home and can use private amenities. Contactless check-in is available at many Vacasa vacation rentals, which most hotels don’t offer, according to Vacasa.

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Matt Roberts

“An IPO is definitely part of a possible future for us,” CEO Matt Roberts told Skift. Roberts, who was hired February 2020, also has experience with taking a company public.

“Part of being prepared is having the right people on the team with the right level of experience,” Roberts continued in the interview with Skift. “So (Jamie) is a great, great addition in that regard.”

Vacasa plans for more growth

According to Skift, consumer preference for short-term rentals during the pandemic has been steadily climbing, with vacation rental market share of total accommodations doubling last year from February to November, “while branded hotel stays saw an 8% point decline during the same time period,” Vacasa stated in its press release. Additionally, Skift reports short-term rentals are expected to continue to outperform hotels, as leisure travel is projected to recover faster than business travel.

“The industry was seeing a shift away from hotels and toward rental homes even before the pandemic,” according to Vacasa. “The current climate simply made it more pronounced and accelerated the adoption of short-term rentals.”

Though Vacasa is based in Portland, Oregon, and has a robust presence in the Boise area, Cohen will remain in Denver. She follows Jim Grube, described as “an incredible asset to Vacasa’s leadership and finance teams.” He left the company last November to pursue other opportunities. Cohen will officially assume the CFO role in March.

“I am excited to join Vacasa’s leadership team and leverage my extensive marketplace experience to accelerate the strategic plan already in motion,” Cohen stated in the press release. “The vacation rental industry is operationally heavy at its core, and technology can play a huge role in unlocking a better consumer experience — something Vacasa has excelled at over the years and will continue to invest in. There is no other company in a better position than Vacasa to continue to lead the vacation rental management industry.”

Vacasa recently acquired Charleston, South Carolina-based Walk Away Stays and the 55 rental units managed by Walk Away Stays (based in Charleston, South Carolina), Skift reports, and in November, Vacasa acquired 45 rentals in the Jackson Hole area through Mountain Property Management. “While small, the deals show Vacasa tip-toeing back into mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. market,” Skift stated. “Before the pandemic, Vacasa led a fast-paced acquisition program.”

Vacasa received a $108 million round of funding from investors intended to help it through the crisis in June. It currently manages over 600 homes in Idaho. The company will use the new funding to fuel its growth in the U.S., as well as invest in technology.

“Vacasa’s tech-enabled approach is powered by the talented team members who build and fine-tune our algorithms to optimize revenue for homeowners,” Cohen said. “We will continue to lean into technology and innovation to fuel growth and, with much of our technology team headquartered in Boise, that office is critical to the company’s future. I’ll work closely with the tech and product leaders as Vacasa continues to invest in its systems and bring efficiencies of scale to vacation rental management.”

Roberts stated he is excited to welcome Cohen to the team and is “confident that her experience is exactly what we need for our next stage of growth.”

“We expect consumer preference will continue to lean heavily towards professionally managed vacation homes, which affords us a tremendous growth opportunity moving forward,” Roberts said in the press release.

About Alx Stevens