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NEWS
Scott O’Neil takes the reins from Nick Varney at Merlin Entertainment
POSTED 15 Nov 2022 . BY Liz Terry
Scott O'Neil is the new CEO at Merlin Entertainments Credit: Merlin Entertainment
American Scott O'Neil is the new CEO of Merlin Entertainment following the retirement of Nick Varney
Harvard MBA, O'Neil says he will focus on driving the growth of the business
Merlin has 147 attractions in 24 countries and three more theme parks in the pipeline for China
O'Neil was formerly in the sports sector and has relocated to London
Merlin Entertainments, the UK-based global attractions operator which is second only to Disney in size, has chosen its new CEO, following the retirement of founder, Nick Varney.

American Scott O’Neil takes over from Varney today (15 November 2022), being responsible for the global growth of the business, as well as the operation of the company's 147 attractions in 24 countries. He will report to the Merlin board and its investors, Kirkbi, Blackstone and CPPIB.

Varney has spent 23 years growing Merlin from small beginnings as Vardon, to a multi-brand global attractions business with a diversified portfolio, global reach and strong development pipeline, earning the respect of the global attractions industry in the process.

The journey has included several major private equity deals, an expansion deal with Lego and the purchase of Tussauds Group in 2007 from Dubai International Capital. A sweet move given Varney was formerly an employee of Tussauds.

In stepping away from the business, Varney said: “I'm very proud of what we've achieved over the past 23 years. We've built an incredible business with amazing attractions and brilliant people and I have every confidence that Merlin will go from strength to strength under Scott’s leadership.”

O’Neil, a Harvard MBA, comes to Merlin from a career in sport, which has included a stint as CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, a portfolio of sports, entertainment and investment properties, where he oversaw more than $2bn growth, taking the business from US$415m to US$2.5bn in value.

Under O’Neil’s leadership, the company evolved from managing a single basketball team – the Philadelphia 76ers – to become a live sports and entertainment group with a number of professional teams, real estate holdings and operating divisions.

Merlin says O'Neil's expertise lies in "building brands, driving attendances, leveraging data, engaging fans through the guest experience and partnering with major brands to drive growth."

O'Neil said: "Merlin is a business with phenomenal tailwinds, whose purpose is to bring joy and make lasting memories for families and friends around the world.

“Nick has built an incredible business and achieved unprecedented growth in this industry and yet there are still tremendous upside opportunities ahead to continue this momentum.

"We're actively building and searching for new attractions and sites," he said. "We're fortunate that we're not limited to working with a single studio or content pipeline and so we're seeking additional brand partners to redefine our attractions business, as well as looking to aggressively expand offerings and experiences in our current attractions."

Merlin’s attractions include 10 Legoland Resort Theme Parks and hotels, six resort theme parks, including Alton Towers, Heide Park and Gardaland, as well as a portfolio of global brands in city destinations, such as Sea Life aquariums, Madame Tussauds, Peppa Pig World of Play, the London Eye and Sydney Tower Eye. The company also partners with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Hasbro

Merlin also has three more Legoland Resorts under development in China and further openings planned across the US and Asia.

Chair, Roland Hernandez, paid tribute to Varney, saying: "Merlin is one of the best leisure businesses in the world thanks to Nick's leadership, passion and talent and we wish him all the best in his retirement.”

“Scott has significant experience in the entertainment industry, a proven track record of delivering business transformation and the vision and ambition to lead Merlin through the next exciting stages of its global development," continued Hernandez. "The Board has every confidence in him, and we look forward to working closely together over the coming years."




Nick Varney is retiring after 23 years at the helm of Merlin Entertainments Credit: Merlin Entertainments
RELATED STORIES
  FEATURE: Interview: Nick Varney


With major new openings happening and ambitious growth plans, Merlin Entertainments is thinking big
  FEATURE: Aquariums: Into the deep


Merlin and the Sea Life Trust share the highs and lows of the epic journey to get two whales to their new home in the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary in Iceland
  Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn


Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors.
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Vietnam Van Gogh exhibition uses VIOSO-powered immersive installations
Twenty-five cameras, nine servers, 70 projectors and a range of AV technologies are being used to bring the art of Van Gogh to life in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Use of cinematography techniques significantly increases engagement with VR
A study has found that the use of cinematic and video editing techniques can drastically increase the aesthetic appeal and user engagement of virtual reality environments.
+ More news   

COMPANY PROFILES
IDEATTACK

IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
Sally Corporation

Our services include: Dark ride design & build; Redevelopment of existing attractions; High-quality [more...]
ProSlide Technology, Inc.

A former national ski team racer, ProSlide® CEO Rick Hunter’s goal has been to integrate the smoot [more...]
Red Raion

Founded in 2014, Red Raion is the CGI studio for media-based attractions. [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo Americas in Miami, Florida, the region’s only event dedicated to cruise ship interior design. [more...]
CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

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DIARY

 

06-06 Jun 2024

National Attractions Marketing Conference

Drayton Manor Theme Park & Resort, Tamworth, United Kingdom
06-07 Jun 2024

World Sauna Forum 2024

Sataman Viilu , Jyväskylä, Finland
+ More diary  
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NEWS
Scott O’Neil takes the reins from Nick Varney at Merlin Entertainment
POSTED 15 Nov 2022 . BY Liz Terry
Scott O'Neil is the new CEO at Merlin Entertainments Credit: Merlin Entertainment
American Scott O'Neil is the new CEO of Merlin Entertainment following the retirement of Nick Varney
Harvard MBA, O'Neil says he will focus on driving the growth of the business
Merlin has 147 attractions in 24 countries and three more theme parks in the pipeline for China
O'Neil was formerly in the sports sector and has relocated to London
Merlin Entertainments, the UK-based global attractions operator which is second only to Disney in size, has chosen its new CEO, following the retirement of founder, Nick Varney.

American Scott O’Neil takes over from Varney today (15 November 2022), being responsible for the global growth of the business, as well as the operation of the company's 147 attractions in 24 countries. He will report to the Merlin board and its investors, Kirkbi, Blackstone and CPPIB.

Varney has spent 23 years growing Merlin from small beginnings as Vardon, to a multi-brand global attractions business with a diversified portfolio, global reach and strong development pipeline, earning the respect of the global attractions industry in the process.

The journey has included several major private equity deals, an expansion deal with Lego and the purchase of Tussauds Group in 2007 from Dubai International Capital. A sweet move given Varney was formerly an employee of Tussauds.

In stepping away from the business, Varney said: “I'm very proud of what we've achieved over the past 23 years. We've built an incredible business with amazing attractions and brilliant people and I have every confidence that Merlin will go from strength to strength under Scott’s leadership.”

O’Neil, a Harvard MBA, comes to Merlin from a career in sport, which has included a stint as CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, a portfolio of sports, entertainment and investment properties, where he oversaw more than $2bn growth, taking the business from US$415m to US$2.5bn in value.

Under O’Neil’s leadership, the company evolved from managing a single basketball team – the Philadelphia 76ers – to become a live sports and entertainment group with a number of professional teams, real estate holdings and operating divisions.

Merlin says O'Neil's expertise lies in "building brands, driving attendances, leveraging data, engaging fans through the guest experience and partnering with major brands to drive growth."

O'Neil said: "Merlin is a business with phenomenal tailwinds, whose purpose is to bring joy and make lasting memories for families and friends around the world.

“Nick has built an incredible business and achieved unprecedented growth in this industry and yet there are still tremendous upside opportunities ahead to continue this momentum.

"We're actively building and searching for new attractions and sites," he said. "We're fortunate that we're not limited to working with a single studio or content pipeline and so we're seeking additional brand partners to redefine our attractions business, as well as looking to aggressively expand offerings and experiences in our current attractions."

Merlin’s attractions include 10 Legoland Resort Theme Parks and hotels, six resort theme parks, including Alton Towers, Heide Park and Gardaland, as well as a portfolio of global brands in city destinations, such as Sea Life aquariums, Madame Tussauds, Peppa Pig World of Play, the London Eye and Sydney Tower Eye. The company also partners with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Hasbro

Merlin also has three more Legoland Resorts under development in China and further openings planned across the US and Asia.

Chair, Roland Hernandez, paid tribute to Varney, saying: "Merlin is one of the best leisure businesses in the world thanks to Nick's leadership, passion and talent and we wish him all the best in his retirement.”

“Scott has significant experience in the entertainment industry, a proven track record of delivering business transformation and the vision and ambition to lead Merlin through the next exciting stages of its global development," continued Hernandez. "The Board has every confidence in him, and we look forward to working closely together over the coming years."




Nick Varney is retiring after 23 years at the helm of Merlin Entertainments Credit: Merlin Entertainments
RELATED STORIES
FEATURE: Interview: Nick Varney


With major new openings happening and ambitious growth plans, Merlin Entertainments is thinking big
FEATURE: Aquariums: Into the deep


Merlin and the Sea Life Trust share the highs and lows of the epic journey to get two whales to their new home in the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary in Iceland
Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn


Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors.
MORE NEWS
Merlin unveils record-breaking Hyperia coaster at Thorpe Park
Merlin Entertainments has launched its new Hyperia rollercoaster at Thorpe Park to celebrate its 45th year.
Second Chaos Karts launches in Dubai
Live action video game experience Chaos Karts has launched in a 15,000sq ft arena in Al Quoz, Dubai.
Vietnam Van Gogh exhibition uses VIOSO-powered immersive installations
Twenty-five cameras, nine servers, 70 projectors and a range of AV technologies are being used to bring the art of Van Gogh to life in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Use of cinematography techniques significantly increases engagement with VR
A study has found that the use of cinematic and video editing techniques can drastically increase the aesthetic appeal and user engagement of virtual reality environments.
Disneyland Paris renames theme park as part of $2 billion transformation
Disneyland Paris has unveiled a new name for Walt Disney Studios Park as part of the park’s US$2 billion transformation.
UK's Royal attractions had a bumper year in 2023
Numbers from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, (ALVA) show that Royal attractions saw a huge increase in visitor numbers during 2023 – the coronation year of King Charles III.
+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILES
IDEATTACK

IDEATTACK is a full-service planning and design company with headquarters in Los Angeles. [more...]
Sally Corporation

Our services include: Dark ride design & build; Redevelopment of existing attractions; High-quality [more...]
ProSlide Technology, Inc.

A former national ski team racer, ProSlide® CEO Rick Hunter’s goal has been to integrate the smoot [more...]
Red Raion

Founded in 2014, Red Raion is the CGI studio for media-based attractions. [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo Americas in Miami, Florida, the region’s only event dedicated to cruise ship interior design. [more...]
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

06-06 Jun 2024

National Attractions Marketing Conference

Drayton Manor Theme Park & Resort, Tamworth, United Kingdom
06-07 Jun 2024

World Sauna Forum 2024

Sataman Viilu , Jyväskylä, Finland
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS