Seasoned financier Mark Gustafson is swapping resources for rides with his latest venture.
The former Euromax Resources chief has a 25 year track record of raising funds for oil and gas projects.
But tough times and limited opportunities in the commodity space has led him to look elsewhere.
His latest enterprise, Challenger Acquisitions (LON:CHAL), hopes to turn a profit by investing in big wheels.
Gustafson launched Challenger at the end of last year and after a quick-fire listing in February, the investment vehicle already has a market value of £8mln.
“I just don’t see the resource space bouncing back over the next couple of years,” said Gustafson, who raised over US$18mln worth of funds for Euromax shortly after the financial crisis.
Instead, Gustafson, who was also in charge of shale gas firm Triangle Petroleum Corporation from 2005-08, is eyeing opportunities in the “attractions” area.
Last week he signed a co-operation deal with Starneth, whose team helped build the London Eye.
The link up with Starneth, which is also working on the Dubai-I Wheel and the New York Wheel, gives Challenger extra reach into a sector which Gustafson describes a “hugely popular”.
“It’s also way more recession-proof than investing resources,” he claims. “People understand giant wheels, they are hugely popular tourist attractions with large numbers of visitors."
Under the co-operation agreement, Starneth can provide the engineering, design and project management on any giant observation wheels that Challenger becomes involved in.
And although this isn’t a direct takeover, Gustafson says he will be targeting specific acquisitions in the range of £2mln to £20mln within the next twelve months.
“Starneth has a pipeline of potential international projects that we can now access,” said Gustafson.
“The numbers tend to be large for giant observation wheels and local teams, although technically brilliant, often run into funding issues - that’s where we aim to help out.
“With the Starneth agreement, we can now use Challenger as a public vehicle to finance select opportunities.”
In the long-run, Gustafson’s plan is to have stakes in select observation wheel projects, and potentially theme parks, in major cities around the world.
Early signs suggest investors are on board. Shares in the business debuted at 10p in February and have already climbed to 62p.
“Whilst the headline risk still exists, that of not finding and funding a suitable acquisition, the focus is now clearer and we look forward to further developments and announcements,” broker Shard Capital said in a recent note.