END OF AN ERA: Sydney BridgeClimb founder Paul Cave just lost the rights to his famous business

Bolted…

Paul Cave’s 20-year run as the pioneer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s BridgeClimb is over with the NSW government announcing today that the tender for the next two decades of its operation has been awarded to the family business behind the Scenic World in the Blue Mountains.

Hammons Holdings, a 73-year-old third-generation tourism business best known for the scenic railway and skyway in Katoomba, has been awarded the tender by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services will take over Brideclimb and along with the rights to all other tourism activities on the Bridge for the next 20 years.

Hammons Holdings CEO, David Hammon, said he wants to make the Bridge a “must-see destination for Sydneysiders and visitors… regardless of physical or financial restraints”.

“Our vision is to recreate the people’s Bridge – we will be exploring ways to safely expand access to new areas of the Bridge, use innovative technology to bring the Bridge to life, and make its history and connectivity a more central part of the experience,” he said.

Hammons Holdings is also an early-stage investor in $36 million private zoo opening in western Sydney later this year.

The 16.5 hectare Sydney Zoo at Bungarabee Park will feature 30 “cage-free” large African animal exhibits.

The company says it’s hoping to create “a corridor of iconic visitor experiences” from the Bridge to their World-Heritage listed site in the Blue Mountains.

More than four million people have climbed the bridge since Cave finally opened the business in October 1998 after a decade of lobbying the government with the idea.

It’s been a lucrative venture, with Fairfax reporting that in FY2015-16, the private business behind Bridgeclimb, Ottto Holdings (Aust.) Pty Ltd, paid $17 million in dividends to its owners, who include billionaires Jack Cowin and Brett Blundy.

Annual revenue was around $49 million, and while the amount RMS is paid for the licence, it was believed to be in the vicinity of $1.9 million annually.

In a statement to Business Insider, company chairman Paul Cave, 71, said it was “the end of a wonderful era”.

“It has been a privilege for us to make a hero of the Bridge, and of every climber on every climb,” he said.

“Every one of our past and present team can hold their heads high on what we have created together. The team and our customers are our immediate priority”.

Cave said he was proud of creating a world-class experience and operation, with an unblemished safety record, and no serious injuries in 20 years, adding it will be “climbing as usual” for customers booked up until September 30, 2018.

The company will be in touch with customers with bookings after that date once there’s clarity around those bookings following the handover.

The BridgeClimb pioneer said he would not be making any further statements at this time.

“Our focus is on our customers, our team, and on preserving our brand, equipment and expertise for future opportunities,” Cave said.

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