Merlin Entertainments to expand across Asia

Merlin Entertainments (ME), which operates Legoland and resort theme parks, is on a “mandate to grow” and its new CEO has identified opportunities in the region for its indoor Midway attractions.

Calling himself a “growth CEO”, Scott O’Neil, who was appointed six months ago, has been visiting team members in the region to spread his message, assess existing assets and explore business development opportunities with leaders of other attractions.

O’Neil: excited about growth for Midway in 24 gateway cities, including Singapore, Shanghai, Osaka and Seoul

O’Neil predicted that Asia would be ME’s fastest region of growth in 2024.

ME was privatised in 2019, in a reported US$7.5 billion deal, and he shared that more Midway attractions, which are located in city centres, shopping malls or resorts and include brands such as Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE, the Dungeons, and others, would be added.

Visitors, he explained, typically spend between two to three hours at these attractions.

O’Neil said “merger and acquisition (M&A) activity was buying better value than before” and he was “most excited about growth for Midway in 24 gateway cities, including Singapore, Shanghai, Osaka and Seoul”.

This expansion, he continued, would be based on “London as the model, our most successful business where 25 per cent of tourists goes to one of our attractions”.

ME was studying “what of that model works, how to acquire management contracts and add value to M&As with its know-how to cross-sell and upsell,” he noted.

During a 24-hour visit to Singapore, and Legoland Malaysia Johor Bahru last week, O’Neil told TTG Asia there were plans to “cluster” and expand Sentosa’s Madame Tussauds by adding an attraction or acquiring one nearby.

Visiting Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau on a North Asia tour in April, O’Neil commented that ME was opening its biggest Legoland in Shenzhen in 2024 and the park in Shanghai, expected to open next year as well, would become its global flagship.

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