Merlin Entertainments Limited
Company typePrivate company limited by shares[1]
Founded14 December 1998; 25 years ago (1998-12-14)
Key people
Scott O'Neil (CEO)
Revenue£1,688 million (2018)[2]
£327 million (2018)[2]
£230 million (2018)[2]
Number of employees
30,000 (2024)

Merlin Entertainments Limited is a British entertainment company based at Poole in Dorset, England, which operates a number of theme parks and other tourist attractions. 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.[3]

In May 2005, the company was acquired from Hermes by a division of The Blackstone Group,[4] 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.[5]


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.[6] As part of the deal, Kirkbi A/S, the investment arm of LEGO's owners, took a share in Merlin Entertainments.[7][8]


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.[9][10] 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.[11][9][12]

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.[13] Although the attraction sites are owned by Leslau, they are operated by Merlin based on a renewable 35-year lease.[9]


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.[14]

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.[15]

Australia and New Zealand

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.[16] On 3 March 2011, the deal was finalised.[17] 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.[18][19]

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 and international criticism for the blatant disrespect it cast on, specifically, the first female prime minister of Australia.[20]


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[21] – 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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] The takeover was approved by the high court in November 2019.[25]

eOne's multi-territory partnership with Merlin

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.[26]

Further tying into the collaboration between Merlin and eOne, select episodes of PJ Masks season 4 will feature underwater adventures.[26]


Resort theme parks

Name Location Year Opened Year Acquired Notes
Alton Towers Resort United Kingdom Staffordshire, UK 1860 2007 Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.
Chessington World of Adventures Resort United Kingdom Chessington, Greater London, UK 1987 2007 Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.
Gardaland Resort Italy Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy 1975 2006 Purchased in 2006 under Blackstone.
Heide Park Resort Germany Soltau, Lower Saxony, Germany 1978 2007 Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.
Thorpe Park United Kingdom Chertsey, Surrey, UK 1979 2007 Acquired in Tussauds Group deal.


Name Location Year Opened Year Acquired Notes
Legoland Billund Resort Denmark Billund, Denmark 1968 2005 Acquired in Blackstone deal.
Legoland California Resort United States Carlsbad, California, U.S. 1999 2005 Acquired in Blackstone deal.
Legoland Deutschland Resort Germany Günzburg, Germany 2002 2005 Acquired in Blackstone deal.
Legoland Dubai Resort United Arab Emirates Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates 2016 - Opened as part of the Dubai Parks and Resorts development in Jebel Ali.
Legoland Florida Resort United States Winter Haven, Florida, U.S. 2011 2011 Cypress Gardens acquired and rebranded.
Legoland Japan Resort Japan Nagoya, Japan 2017 - New-build theme park.
Legoland Korea Resort South Korea Chuncheon, South Korea 2022 - New-build theme park.
Legoland Malaysia Resort Malaysia Johor Bahru, Malaysia 2012 - New-build theme park.
Legoland New York Resort United States Goshen, New York, U.S. 2021 - New-build theme park.
Legoland Windsor Resort United Kingdom Windsor, UK 1996 2005 Acquired in Blackstone deal.

Peppa Pig parks

Name Location Year Opened Year Acquired Notes
Peppa Pig Theme Park Florida United States Winter Haven, Florida 2022 - New-build theme park.
Peppa Pig Theme Park Dallas-Fort Worth United States Frisco, Texas 2024[27] - New-build theme park.
Peppa Pig Park Günzburg Germany Günzburg, Bavaria 2024[28] - New-build theme park.

Midway attractions

Name Location(s) Year Opened Year Acquired Notes
Australian Treetop Adventures Australia Australia 2005 2010 Canopy walkways acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal
Blackpool Tower Circus United Kingdom Blackpool, UK 1894 2011
Sandcastle Waterpark United Kingdom Blackpool, UK 1986 2022 Operation from Autumn 2022
Cadbury World United Kingdom Birmingham, UK 1990 2022 Operation and brand licences from summer 2023
The Bear Grylls Adventure United Kingdom Birmingham, UK 2018
The Dungeons United Kingdom Alton Towers
United Kingdom Blackpool
United Kingdom London
United Kingdom Warwick
United Kingdom York
United Kingdom Edinburgh
Germany Berlin
Germany Hamburg
Netherlands Amsterdam
China Shanghai

Eye Brand United Kingdom Blackpool
United Kingdom London
Australia Sydney
DreamWorks Tours: Shrek's Adventure! United Kingdom London 2015 - Uses characters from the Shrek franchise, licensed from DreamWorks Animation.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centres United Kingdom Birmingham at Arena Birmingham
United Kingdom Manchester at the Trafford Centre
Germany Berlin at the Sony Center
Germany Oberhausen
United States Phoenix at Arizona Mills
United States Atlanta at Phipps Plaza
United States Bay Area (San Jose) at Great Mall of the Bay Area
United States Boston
United States Chicago at The Streets of Woodfield
United States Columbus at Easton Town Center
United States Dallas Fort Worth at Grapevine Mills
United States Kansas City at Crown Center
United States Michigan at the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
United States New Jersey at American Dream Meadowlands
United States Philadelphia at the Plymouth Meeting Mall
United States Westchester (New York) at Westchester's Ridge Hill
United States San Antonio at the Shops at Rivercenter
Canada Toronto at Vaughan Mills
Australia Melbourne at the Chadstone Shopping Centre
China Beijing
China Shanghai
China Shenyang
Hong Kong Hong Kong
Japan Osaka

Japan Tokyo
Turkey Istanbul
Netherlands Scheveningen
Belgium Brussels[29]

Little Big City Germany Berlin, Germany
China Beijing, China
Madame Tussauds United Kingdom London
United Kingdom Blackpool
Austria Vienna
Czech Republic Prague
Turkey Istanbul
Germany Berlin
Netherlands Amsterdam
Hungary Budapest
United States Hollywood
United States Las Vegas
United States Nashville
United States New York
United States Orlando
United States San Francisco
Australia Sydney
China Beijing
China Chongqing
China Shanghai
China Wuhan
Hong Kong Hong Kong
India New Delhi
Japan Tokyo
Singapore Singapore
Thailand Bangkok
United Arab Emirates Dubai
Peppa Pig World of Play China Shanghai

United States Auburn Hills, Michigan
United States Grapevine, Texas
United States Chicago, Illinois

Netherlands Leidschendam




Peter Rabbit: Explore and Play United Kingdom Blackpool 2022
Sea Life United Kingdom Birmingham
United Kingdom Blackpool
United Kingdom Brighton
United Kingdom Great Yarmouth
Italy Castelnuovo del Garda
United Kingdom Gweek
United Kingdom Hunstanton

United Kingdom Manchester
United Kingdom London
United Kingdom Scarborough
United Kingdom Weymouth
United Kingdom Loch Lomond
Republic of Ireland Bray
Belgium Blankenberge
Germany Berlin
Germany Hanover
Germany Königswinter
Germany Konstanz
Germany Munich
Germany Oberhausen
Germany Speyer
Germany Timmendorfer Strand
Finland Helsinki
Italy Jesolo
Netherlands The Hague
Portugal Porto
Spain Benalmadena
Turkey Istanbul
France Paris
United States Arizona
United States Orlando
United States New Jersey
United States San Antonio
Australia Melbourne
Australia Mooloolaba (Sunshine Coast)
Australia Sydney
New Zealand Auckland
China Shanghai
Japan Nagoya
Malaysia Iskandar Puteri
South Korea Busan
Thailand Bangkok

Warwick Castle United Kingdom United Kingdom 1978 2007 Acquired in Tussauds Group merger.

Future locations

Name Location Planned Opening Year
Legoland Shanghai Resort China Jinshan District, Shanghai, China 2024
Legoland Sichuan Resort China Chengdu, Sichuan, China 2025
Legoland Beijing Resort China Fangshan District, Beijing, China 2024
Legoland Shenzhen Resort China Shenzhen, China 2024
Legoland Discovery Centres Germany Hamburg, Germany 2023
United States Miami, Florida at American Dream Miami 2023
United States Pittsburgh at The Mall at Robinson 2023
United States Washington at Springfield Town Center[30] 2023

Cancelled and former properties

Former locations

Name Location Year Opened Year Acquired Fate Year Closed/Sold Notes
Abenteuer Park Oberhausen Germany Oberhausen, Germany 1996 2011 Closed 2015 Formerly known as CentrO.Park (1996–2011) & Sea Life Abenteuer Park (2013)
Earth Explorer Belgium Ostend, Belgium 2004 - Sold 2013
Falls Creek ski resort Australia Victoria, Australia 1946 2011 Sold 2019 Acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal, sold to Vail Resorts in 2019.
Hotham Alpine Resort Australia Victoria, Australia 1925 2011 Sold 2019 Ski resort acquired in MFS Living and Leisure deal, sold to Vail Resorts in 2019.
Legoland Discovery Centre Duisburg Germany Duisburg, Germany 2007 - Closed 2013 Moved to Oberhausen after a few years.
Legoland Discovery Centre Hotham Australia Mt Hotham, AZ at Hotham Alpine Resort 2018 - Closed 2018
London Planetarium United Kingdom London 1958 2007 Closed 2010 Acquired in Tussauds Group deal as it shares the same site as Madame Tussauds London. Closed and the space is now used by Madame Tussauds London for exhibitions & other attractions.
Madame Tussauds Washington DC United States Washington D.C. 2007 - Closed 2021[31] Closed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The San Francisco Dungeon United States San Francisco 2014 - Closed 2022[32] Closed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando United States Orlando 2015 - Sold 2018 Opened as the Orlando Eye; Operations were reverted to the owner and Rebranded in 2018.
Sea Life Hastings United Kingdom Hastings, England 2008 - Sold 2012 Now belongs to the Blue Reef Aquarium chain.
Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary United Kingdom Oban, Scotland 1979 - Closed 2018
Sea Life St. Andrews United Kingdom St. Andrews, Scotland 1999 TBA Sold TBA Now operates as the St. Andrews Aquarium.
Manly Sea Life Sanctuary Australia Manly, Australia 1965 2010 Closed 2018[33]
Sea Life Bray Aquarium Republic of Ireland Bray, Ireland 1998 - Closed 2023 -

Cancelled locations

Name Location Year Planned To Open Year Cancelled Notes
Legoland Belgium Belgium Gosselies, Belgium 2027 2023 Was planned to be built on the former site of Caterpillar's Gosselies factory and to be opened in 2027,[34] but the project was cancelled on 24 March 2023.[35]

Bus operation

In February 2016, Merlin purchased a 15% shareholding in Big Bus Tours.


  1. ^ "Merlin Entertainments Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Preliminary Results 2018". Merlin Entertainments. Retrieved 18 March 2019.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Blackstone Acquires Merlin Entertainment". 23 May 2005. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Blackstone Acquires Merlin Entertainment". 23 May 2005. Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Merlin Entertainments Group acquires Italy's Gardaland". Coaster Buzz. 16 October 2006. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Troubled Lego sells theme parks". BBC News. 13 July 2005. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Why you shouldn't buy shares in Legoland owner Merlin Entertainment". 30 October 2013. Archived from the original on 27 March 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Tour Legoland California". Archived from the original on 5 February 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Merlin conjures up leaseback deal". The Daily Telegraph. 18 July 2007. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Blackstone Buys Madame Tussauds Chain". Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  11. ^ King of Capital, p. 313.
  12. ^ "Tussauds firm bought in £1bn deal". BBC News. 5 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  13. ^ "Alton Towers sold in £622m deal". BBC News. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Cypress Gardens Sold to Legoland". 15 January 2010. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  15. ^ "Legoland and Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments waves goodbye to SeaWorld deal | City A.M". City A.M. 11 October 2017. Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  16. ^ AAP (17 December 2010). "Village Roadshow sells Sydney Attractions". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  17. ^ AAP (3 March 2011). "Plans for a Madame Tussauds in Sydney". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  18. ^ Ooi, Teresa (20 December 2011). "Merlin Entertainments Group conjures $140m James Packer bid". The Australian. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  19. ^ Danckert, Sarah (13 February 2012). "Merlin ready to wrap up Living and Leisure deal". The Australian. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  20. ^ "A wax figurine of Julia Gillard at Centrelink isn't a publicity stunt, it's just plain stupid - and offensive". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013.
  21. ^ CVC Capital Partners press release[dead link], 24 June 2010.
  22. ^ King of Capital, p. 314.
  23. ^ Why you shouldn't buy shares in Legoland owner Merlin Entertainment Archived 27 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine The Daily Telegraph, 30 October 2013
  24. ^ "Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments agrees £4.8bn offer". BBC News. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  25. ^ "Court approves deal for Merlin Entertainments". Insider Media. 1 November 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  26. ^ a b "eOne & Merlin to launch PJ Masks trail in 2020". Entertainment One. 5 December 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Peppa Pig Theme Park Dallas Ft Worth".
  28. ^ "Germany to get Europe's first stand-alone Peppa Pig Theme Park". 30 June 2023.
  29. ^ "Merlin to take Legoland Discovery Centres to Belgium with deal for Brussels site | news". 30 August 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  30. ^ "Newly renamed LEGO Discovery Centre arrives in Washington, D.C., in 2023". InPark Magazine. 11 February 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  31. ^ "Madame Tussauds aims to sublease D.C. wax museum". Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  32. ^ "The 'San Francisco Dungeon' at Fisherman's Wharf Has Spooked Its Last Tourist". SFist - San Francisco News, Restaurants, Events, & Sports. 14 February 2022. Archived from the original on 11 March 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  33. ^ "Manly Sea Life Sanctuary closes its doors after 55 years". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  34. ^ "Un parc d'attractions Legoland à l'horizon 2027 sur le site Caterpillar à Charleroi". RTBF (in French). Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  35. ^ "Merlin renonce à construire un parc Legoland à Charleroi" (in French). L'Echo. 24 March 2023.