|Type||Private limited company|
|Founded||14 December 1998|
|Nick Varney (CEO)|
|Revenue||£1,688 million (2018)|
|£327 million (2018)|
|£230 million (2018)|
Number of employees
|Resort Theme Parks|
|Legoland Discovery Centres|
|Sea Life Centres & Sanctuaries|
|Peppa Pig World of Play|
|Wild Life Parks|
Merlin Entertainments Limited is a British entertainment company based at Poole in Dorset, England. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until November 2019, when it was acquired by a consortium that includes Kirkbi A/S (the investment arm of the Christiansen family, which controls The Lego Group).
In December 1998, Nick Varney, Andrew Carr and the senior management team of Vardon Attractions (Vardon plc) completed a management buyout of the company to form Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd., with the backing of the private equity firm Apax Partners. Apax sold the company in 2004 to another financial investor, Hermes Private Equity.
In May 2005, the company was acquired from Hermes by a division of The Blackstone Group, which later started a major expansion. Over the years, Merlin acquired Gardaland, an Italian theme park, and The Tussauds Group. The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013.
When the Legoland theme park was up for sale, Varney wanted to buy it, but Hermes did not want to tie up more capital. After the sale of Merlin to Blackstone Group, the company negotiated to buy control of Legoland in 2005 for about £250 million, then merged it with Merlin. As part of the deal, Kirkbi A/S, the investment arm of LEGO's owners, took a share in Merlin Entertainments.
In May 2007, Blackstone purchased The Tussauds Group, owner of the Madame Tussauds wax museums, for US$1.9 billion. This company was merged with Merlin and has since been managed by Merlin. After the Tussauds acquisition, Dubai International Capital, the previous owner, received a 20% stake in the combined entity as well as £1.03bn in cash.
On 17 July 2007, as part of the financing for the Tussauds deal, the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds were sold to private investor Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury, with a subsequent leaseback agreement. Although the attraction sites are owned by Leslau, they are operated by Merlin based on a renewable 35-year lease.
On 15 January 2010, Merlin Entertainments bought Cypress Gardens, a defunct theme park in Winter Haven, Florida. It was reopened as Legoland Florida theme park.
Reports in early October 2017 indicated that Merlin Entertainments was considering a takeover of Sea World in Orlando, but on 11 October, the company said it was no longer involved in such discussions.
In late 2010, it was announced that Merlin would purchase approximately A$116 million worth of entertainment attractions located in Australia and New Zealand from Village Roadshow Theme Parks and Attractions. The sale would include Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, Oceanworld Manly, Sydney Tower and the Koala Gallery in Australia, in addition to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in New Zealand. On 3 March 2011, the deal was finalised. This was followed by the $140 million acquisition of Living and Leisure Australia which owned several attractions in the Asia-Pacific region including UnderWater World, Melbourne Aquarium, Falls Creek Alpine Resort, Hotham Alpine Resort, Otway Fly, Illawarra Fly, Busan Aquarium and Siam Ocean World.
On 28 June 2013, Merlin Australia's Madame Tussauds in Sydney placed a wax figure of the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, into a mock queue of the unemployed at a Centrelink office in central Sydney. Deposed by the Australian Labor Party in the evening of 26 June, and replaced by Kevin Rudd, the publicity stunt drew wide attention, but received some criticism for the "disrespect" shown to the office of the Prime Minister, and the first female political leader of Australia.
Merlin had planned to go public in the early 2000s, but market turbulence postponed those plans. Instead, Blackstone sold 20% of the company to the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, reducing Blackstone's holding to 34%. CVC acquired another 8% from the Dubai investment fund which is no longer involved with the company, giving it 28% in all. Kirkbi, a Danish family trust that owns LEGO, also increased its stake, emerging as the largest shareholder, with 36%. CVC paid a price that valued Merlin at £2.25 billion – more than six times what Merlin and Legoland together were worth when Blackstone acquired them five years earlier. Blackstone's investment was by that point worth more than three and a half times what it had paid.
On 8 November 2013, Merlin floated 30% of the company on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the private equity-backed company at almost £3.4bn.
In June 2019, the company's board agreed to recommend a takeover offer of £4.8 billion from a consortium consisting of Kirkbi A/S, CPP Investment Board and The Blackstone Group. The takeover was approved by the high court in November 2019.
On 5 December 2019, Entertainment One announced a new multi-territory partnership with Merlin that would open an interactive PJ Masks nautical-themed trail throughout the company's Sea Life aquariums worldwide starting in February 2020.
Further tying into the collaboration between Merlin and eOne, select episodes of PJ Masks season 4 will feature underwater adventures.
|Name||Location||Year Opened||Year Acquired||Notes|
|Alton Towers Resort||Staffordshire, UK||1860||2007||Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.|
|Thorpe Park Resort||Chertsey, Surrey, UK||1979||2007||Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.|
|Chessington World of Adventures Resort||Chessington, Greater London, UK||1987||2007||Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.|
|Gardaland Resort||Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy||1975||2006||Purchased in 2006 under Blackstone.|
|Heide Park Resort||Soltau, Lower Saxony, Germany||1978||2007||Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.|
|Warwick Castle||Warwick, UK||1978||2007||Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.|
|Name||Location||Year Opened||Year Acquired||Notes|
|Legoland Billund Resort||Billund, Denmark||1968||2005||Acquired in Blackstone deal.|
|Legoland California||Carlsbad, California, U.S.||1999||2005||Acquired in Blackstone deal.|
|Legoland Deutschland Resort||Günzburg, Germany||2002||2005||Acquired in Blackstone deal.|
|Legoland Dubai Resort||Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates||2016||-||Opened as part of the Dubai Parks and Resorts development in Jebel Ali.|
|Legoland Florida Resort||Winter Haven, Florida, U.S.||2011||2011||Cypress Gardens acquired and rebranded.|
|Legoland Japan Resort||Nagoya, Japan||2017||-||New-build theme park.|
|Legoland Korea Resort||Chuncheon, South Korea||2022||-||New-build theme park.|
|Legoland Malaysia Resort||Johor Bahru, Malaysia||2012||-||New-build theme park.|
|Legoland New York Resort||Goshen, New York, U.S.||2021||-||New-build theme park.|
|Legoland Windsor Resort||Windsor, UK||1996||2005||Acquired in Blackstone deal.|
|Name||Location(s)||Year Opened||Year Acquired||Notes|
|Australian Treetop Adventures||Australia||2005||2010||Canopy walkways acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal|
|Blackpool Tower Circus||Blackpool, UK||1894||2011|
|Cadbury World||Birmingham, UK||1990||2022||Operation and brand licences from summer 2022|
|The Bear Grylls Adventure||Birmingham, UK||2018|
|The Dungeons|| Alton Towers
|Eye Brand|| Blackpool
|DreamWorks Tours: Shrek's Adventure!||London||2015||-||Uses characters from the Shrek franchise, licensed from DreamWorks Animation.|
|Falls Creek ski resort||Victoria, Australia||1946||2011||Acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal|
|Hotham Alpine Resort||Victoria, Australia||1925||2011||Ski resort acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal|
|LEGOLAND Discovery Centres|| Birmingham at Arena Birmingham
Manchester at the Trafford Centre
Berlin at the Sony Center
Phoenix at Arizona Mills
Atlanta at Phipps Plaza
Bay Area (San Jose) at Great Mall of the Bay Area
Chicago at The Streets of Woodfield
Columbus at Easton Town Center
Dallas Fort Worth at Grapevine Mills
Kansas City at Crown Center
Michigan at the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
New Jersey at American Dream Meadowlands
Philadelphia at the Plymouth Meeting Mall
Westchester (New York) at Westchester's Ridge Hill
San Antonio at the Shops at Rivercenter
Toronto at Vaughan Mills
Melbourne at the Chadstone Shopping Centre
Mt Hotham, AZ at Hotham Alpine Resort
|Little Big City|| Berlin, Germany
|Madame Tussauds|| London
|Peppa Pig World of Play||Shanghai||2018
|Peter Rabbit: Explore and Play||Blackpool||2022|
|Sea Life|| Birmingham
Castelnuovo del Garda
|This is Holland||Amsterdam||2017||2022||Merlin take on day-to-day operations of this flying theatre|
|Type of Attraction||Name||Location||Planned Opening Year|
|Legoland Shanghai||Jinshan District, Shanghai, China||2023|
|Legoland Chengdu||Chengdu, Sichuan, China||2023|
|Legoland Shenzhen Resort||Shenzhen, China||2024|
|Legoland Belgium||Gosselies, Belgium||2026|
|Legoland Discovery Centres||Miami, Florida at American Dream Miami||2023|
|Pittsburgh at The Mall at Robinson||2023|
|LEGO Discovery Centre||Brussels||2022|
|Washington at Springfield Town Center||2023|
|Name||Location||Year Opened||Year Acquired||Fate||Year Closed/Sold||Notes|
|Abenteuer Park Oberhausen||Oberhausen, Germany||1996||2011||Closed||2015||Formerly known as CentrO.Park (1996–2011) & Sea Life Abenteuer Park (2013)|
|Earth Explorer||Ostend, Belgium||2004||-||Sold||2013|
|Legoland Discovery Centre Duisburg||Duisburg, Germany||2007||-||Closed||2013||Moved to Oberhausen after a few years.|
|Madame Tussauds Washington DC||Washington D.C.||2007||-||Closed||2021||Closed since 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic|
|The San Francisco Dungeon||San Francisco||2014||-||Closed||2022||Closed since 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic|
|The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando||Orlando||2015||-||Sold||2018||Opened as the Orlando Eye; Operations were reverted back to the owner and Rebranded in 2018|
|Sea Life Hastings||Hastings, England||2008||-||Sold||2012||Now belongs to the Blue Reef Aquarium chain.|
|Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary||Oban, Scotland||1979||-||Closed||2018|
|Sea Life St. Andrews||St. Andrews, Scotland||1999||TBA||Sold||TBA||Now operates as the St. Andrews Aquarium.|
In February 2016, Merlin purchased a 15% shareholding in Big Bus Tours.
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