Lego parent and Blackstone snap up Merlin in US$6.3 billion deal

Legoland Billund, the original Legoland park, opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark

A consortium including Lego owner Kirkbi, US private equity group Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB agreed last Friday to buy Britain’s Merlin Entertainments for US$6.3 billion including debt, reported AFP.

The offer will be made by a newly incorporated company which has been formed on behalf of the members of the consortium, with each of Kirkbi and the Blackstone/CPPIB group owning 50 per cent upon completion.

Legoland Billund, the original Legoland park, opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark

Kirkbi, the majority owner in Danish toymaker Lego, already owns almost 30 per cent of Merlin following the sale of Legoland Parks to the latter in 2005, as part of a financial restructuring.

Kirkbi’s chief executive Soren Thorup Sorensen added that the acquisition would enable Legoland and the other activities in Merlin to “reach their full potential, which we believe is best pursued under private ownership”.

“With a shared understanding of the business and its culture, we believe that this group of investors has the unique collective resources necessary to equip Merlin, including the Legoland Parks and Legoland Discovery Centres, for their next phase of growth,” he added.

Joe Baratta, global head of private equity, Blackstone, said that the consortium is “prepared to commit the substantial resources required to support the long-term objectives of Merlin, which will require significant investment to ensure its long-term success”.

Founded in 1999, Merlin also owns other major attractions and parks including Madame Tussaud’s wax museums, Peppa Pig World of Play, and the Coca-Cola London Eye. The British company reported sales of £1.7 billion in 2018, when it welcomed a total of 67 million visitors to its tourist attractions around the globe.

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