Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn | attractionsmanagement.com news
POST YOUR JOB ONLINE
Free ezine/digital edition sign up
Jobs . News . Features . Video . Products . Magazine . Handbook . Advertise . Contact  
NEWS
Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn
POSTED 28 Jun 2019 . BY Tom Walker
Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors in a deal at 12 x EBITDA.

Merlin is currently the world’s second largest family entertainment company – with Disney being the largest – and it has more than 130 attractions around the world.

The acquisition values Merlin's shares at £4.8bn (€5.35bn, USS$6.1bn), plus a further £1.1bn in debt.

The deal will see a newly created entity, Bidco, take control of 70 per cent of Merlin's shares.

Bidco is owned by Kirkbi – a wholly owned subsidiary of KIRKBI A/S, the private holding and investment company of the Kirk Kristiansen family which manages the LEGO brand – private equity giant Blackstone Core Equity Partners and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

Kirkbi will own 50 per cent of Bidco, while Blackstone and CPPIB will jointly own the other half.

Kirkbi already owns almost a third (29.58 per cent) of the shares in Merlin. It is anticipated that, upon the acquisition becoming effective, Kirkbi will transfer the Shares to Bidco.

In a statement, Merlin said: "The independent directors of Merlin Entertainments are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash offer to be made by Bidco for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin – other than Merlin Shares owned or controlled by Kirkbi.

"The acquisition values the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin at approximately £4.8bn on a fully diluted basis and implies an enterprise value of £5.9bn (US$7.49bn €6.58bn) – a multiple of approximately 12 x Merlin's underlying EBITDA of £494m (US$627m €550m) for the year ended 29 December 2018."

Kirkbi and Blackstone jointly controlled Merlin in the eight years prior to the 2013 public listing, during which time Merlin became the second largest location-based entertainment business globally, behind Disney.

In a short statement, the new owners added: "The consortium recognises that significant, long-term investment is required to ensure the longevity of the existing assets and to drive continued growth for Merlin and its stakeholders."

Merlin, which was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, will have its shares de-listed as part of the deal.

BACKGROUND
The Merlin portfolio has expanded over the decades by acquisition and organic growth. The company acquired the Tussaud's Group attractions in May 2007 via its backer, The Blackstone Group, for £1bn (which was then US$1.9bn), has grown its own brands, based on IPs including Lego Discovery Centres, Shrek, Bear Grylls and Sea Life Centres to create a midway division, and has acquired attractions from other operators.

GLOBAL EXPANSION
It entered the Australian market in 2011 when it purchased the Sydney Attractions Group, which at that time operated the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower and Sydney Wildlife World. It operates 13 attractions in total in Australia and New Zealand.

PARTNERSHIP WITH LEGO
Merlin's partnership with LEGO goes back to July 2005, when Blackstone acquired the Legoland theme parks portfolio from Kirkbi in a £259m deal which included four sites – in Germany, UK, Denmark and US – and a 176-room Legoland hotel adjacent to the theme park in the Danish town of Billund.

In December 2004, Lego had reported that it was unlikely to break even and would consequently be transferring its LEGOLAND parks either partly or wholly to new owners and a separate company, so it could focus on its core play materials business.

MERGER OF LEGO THEME PARKS AND MERLIN
Blackstone merged the business with Merlin Entertainments, which it had acquired the previous month. At the time, the combined businesses welcomed 12m visitors a year.

SALE AND LEASEBACK WITH PRESTBURY
On 17 July 2007, the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds were sold to Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury under a sale and leaseback agreement.

The company said would be using the money for investment purposes and to pay off outstanding debts. Although the attractions assets are owned by Prestbury, they continue to be operated by Merlin on a renewable 35-year lease.

STOCK MARKET FLOATATION
The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2013, at which time it was valued at £3.5bn. Around 1,700 of Merlin's 10,000 permanent staff were awarded shares on the basis of long service or outstanding contribution

NICK VARNEY
CEO Nick Varney has been at the helm of the business since its inception.

After a stint at Tussauds Group in the 1990s, where he was marketing director of Alton Towers and head of group marketing, he moved to become MD of Vardon Attractions – owner of the Sea Life Centres – and a main board director of Vardon plc.

The move was widely questioned, as Varney had been heir apparent to become CEO of Tussauds, but the decision paid off when Merlin acquired The Tussauds Group.

In 1999, Varney led a management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments and in 2005, initiated the process which led to its acquisition by The Blackstone Group.

In an exclusive interview with Attractions Management, Varney said the secret of the company's success is "Having a great team, an audacious vision, and a lot of luck."

FURTHER INSIGHTS
For further insights into the history of the development and funding of Merlin, read Deloitte's Nigel Bland in Attractions Management from 2014 here.

The Kirk Kristiansen family, which manages the LEGO brand, will become a majority owner of Merlin
RELATED STORIES
Merlin reveals plans for Lego Movie World at California resort


Merlin has revealed plans for the largest new addition at its Legoland California resort since the park launched in 1999.
Peppa Pig theme park potentially in the works as Varney discusses Merlin IP merits


Merlin chief Nick Varney has revealed potential plans for a theme park development dedicated entirely to Peppa Pig.
MORE NEWS
IEE 2019: IAAPA Expo Europe kicks off in Paris
Europe's premium event for the visitor attraction sector - IAAPA Expo Europe - is officially underway in Paris, France, for its 2019 edition.
San Antonio's McNay Art Museum embarks on first phase of campus improvements
The first phase of a multi-million dollar landscape transformation plan for San Antonio's McNay Art Museum has been unveiled, with outdoor works of art, increased accessibility and aesthetic fencing to replace the existing tall boundary hedges planned for the Texas attraction.
Angela Merkel on-hand for opening of €28m Bauhaus Museum Dessau
Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has cut the ribbon to open the new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau – a building designed to hold the 49,000 exhibits in the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation collection.
Cincinnati fun park to focus on water experiences at the expense of amusement rides
Providing guests with more of what they want – this is the rationale behind Coney Island's decision to remove its amusement park rides and replace them with additional water park experiences.
+ More news   
LATEST JOBS
Education/Operations Manager
Sea Life
Salary: Competitive
Job location: Carlsbad, CA, USA
Audio Visual Design Engineer
Holovis
Salary: Competitive
Job location: Orlando, FL, USA
Customer Relationship Manager
Legoland
Salary: Competitive
Job location: Orlando, FL, USA
Project Manager
Legoland
Salary: Competitive
Job location: Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Retail / Commercial Manager
Legoland Discovery Centre
Salary: Competitive
Job location: Atlanta, GA, USA
General Manager
Madame Tussauds
Salary: Competitive
Job location: New York, NY, USA
+ More jobs  

COMPANY PROFILE
RMA Ltd

RMA Ltd is a one-stop global company that can design, build and produce from a greenfield site upw [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

EAS rebrands to IAAPA Expo Europe ahead of 2019 show in Paris
The Euro Attractions Show has been rebranded as the IAAPA Expo Europe ahead of this year's event at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles exhibition centre. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion Showreel 2018
Red Raion is the CGI studio specialized in media based attraction. Find out more...
More videos:
Jurassic War - Immersive tunnel movie trailer – Red Raion
Trailer Peter Pan - Saving Tinkerbell VR – Red Raion
Red Raion: Meet the Team - Introduction – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

16-19 Sep 2019

IAAPA Expo Europe 2019

Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris, France
17 Sep 2019

TEA Western Division TEA Talks Live: TEA Masters

CalArts Walt Disney Modular Theater, Valencia, United States
+ More diary  
LATEST ISSUES
+ View Magazine Archive

Attractions Management

2019 issue 3


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2019 issue 2


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2019 issue 1


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management

2018 issue 4


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Management News

04 Sep 2019 issue 138


View on turning pages
Download PDF
View archive
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription

Attractions Handbook

2019


View issue contents
View on turning pages
Download PDF
FREE digital subscription
Print subscription
 
ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
 
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019
Jobs   News   Products   Magazine
NEWS
Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn
POSTED 28 Jun 2019 . BY Tom Walker
Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors in a deal at 12 x EBITDA.

Merlin is currently the world’s second largest family entertainment company – with Disney being the largest – and it has more than 130 attractions around the world.

The acquisition values Merlin's shares at £4.8bn (€5.35bn, USS$6.1bn), plus a further £1.1bn in debt.

The deal will see a newly created entity, Bidco, take control of 70 per cent of Merlin's shares.

Bidco is owned by Kirkbi – a wholly owned subsidiary of KIRKBI A/S, the private holding and investment company of the Kirk Kristiansen family which manages the LEGO brand – private equity giant Blackstone Core Equity Partners and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

Kirkbi will own 50 per cent of Bidco, while Blackstone and CPPIB will jointly own the other half.

Kirkbi already owns almost a third (29.58 per cent) of the shares in Merlin. It is anticipated that, upon the acquisition becoming effective, Kirkbi will transfer the Shares to Bidco.

In a statement, Merlin said: "The independent directors of Merlin Entertainments are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash offer to be made by Bidco for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin – other than Merlin Shares owned or controlled by Kirkbi.

"The acquisition values the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin at approximately £4.8bn on a fully diluted basis and implies an enterprise value of £5.9bn (US$7.49bn €6.58bn) – a multiple of approximately 12 x Merlin's underlying EBITDA of £494m (US$627m €550m) for the year ended 29 December 2018."

Kirkbi and Blackstone jointly controlled Merlin in the eight years prior to the 2013 public listing, during which time Merlin became the second largest location-based entertainment business globally, behind Disney.

In a short statement, the new owners added: "The consortium recognises that significant, long-term investment is required to ensure the longevity of the existing assets and to drive continued growth for Merlin and its stakeholders."

Merlin, which was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, will have its shares de-listed as part of the deal.

BACKGROUND
The Merlin portfolio has expanded over the decades by acquisition and organic growth. The company acquired the Tussaud's Group attractions in May 2007 via its backer, The Blackstone Group, for £1bn (which was then US$1.9bn), has grown its own brands, based on IPs including Lego Discovery Centres, Shrek, Bear Grylls and Sea Life Centres to create a midway division, and has acquired attractions from other operators.

GLOBAL EXPANSION
It entered the Australian market in 2011 when it purchased the Sydney Attractions Group, which at that time operated the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower and Sydney Wildlife World. It operates 13 attractions in total in Australia and New Zealand.

PARTNERSHIP WITH LEGO
Merlin's partnership with LEGO goes back to July 2005, when Blackstone acquired the Legoland theme parks portfolio from Kirkbi in a £259m deal which included four sites – in Germany, UK, Denmark and US – and a 176-room Legoland hotel adjacent to the theme park in the Danish town of Billund.

In December 2004, Lego had reported that it was unlikely to break even and would consequently be transferring its LEGOLAND parks either partly or wholly to new owners and a separate company, so it could focus on its core play materials business.

MERGER OF LEGO THEME PARKS AND MERLIN
Blackstone merged the business with Merlin Entertainments, which it had acquired the previous month. At the time, the combined businesses welcomed 12m visitors a year.

SALE AND LEASEBACK WITH PRESTBURY
On 17 July 2007, the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds were sold to Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury under a sale and leaseback agreement.

The company said would be using the money for investment purposes and to pay off outstanding debts. Although the attractions assets are owned by Prestbury, they continue to be operated by Merlin on a renewable 35-year lease.

STOCK MARKET FLOATATION
The company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2013, at which time it was valued at £3.5bn. Around 1,700 of Merlin's 10,000 permanent staff were awarded shares on the basis of long service or outstanding contribution

NICK VARNEY
CEO Nick Varney has been at the helm of the business since its inception.

After a stint at Tussauds Group in the 1990s, where he was marketing director of Alton Towers and head of group marketing, he moved to become MD of Vardon Attractions – owner of the Sea Life Centres – and a main board director of Vardon plc.

The move was widely questioned, as Varney had been heir apparent to become CEO of Tussauds, but the decision paid off when Merlin acquired The Tussauds Group.

In 1999, Varney led a management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments and in 2005, initiated the process which led to its acquisition by The Blackstone Group.

In an exclusive interview with Attractions Management, Varney said the secret of the company's success is "Having a great team, an audacious vision, and a lot of luck."

FURTHER INSIGHTS
For further insights into the history of the development and funding of Merlin, read Deloitte's Nigel Bland in Attractions Management from 2014 here.

The Kirk Kristiansen family, which manages the LEGO brand, will become a majority owner of Merlin
RELATED STORIES
Merlin reveals plans for Lego Movie World at California resort


Merlin has revealed plans for the largest new addition at its Legoland California resort since the park launched in 1999.
Peppa Pig theme park potentially in the works as Varney discusses Merlin IP merits


Merlin chief Nick Varney has revealed potential plans for a theme park development dedicated entirely to Peppa Pig.
MORE NEWS
IEE 2019: IAAPA Expo Europe kicks off in Paris
Europe's premium event for the visitor attraction sector - IAAPA Expo Europe - is officially underway in Paris, France, for its 2019 edition.
San Antonio's McNay Art Museum embarks on first phase of campus improvements
The first phase of a multi-million dollar landscape transformation plan for San Antonio's McNay Art Museum has been unveiled, with outdoor works of art, increased accessibility and aesthetic fencing to replace the existing tall boundary hedges planned for the Texas attraction.
Angela Merkel on-hand for opening of €28m Bauhaus Museum Dessau
Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has cut the ribbon to open the new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau – a building designed to hold the 49,000 exhibits in the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation collection.
Cincinnati fun park to focus on water experiences at the expense of amusement rides
Providing guests with more of what they want – this is the rationale behind Coney Island's decision to remove its amusement park rides and replace them with additional water park experiences.
Tottenham to debut first standalone NFL attraction outside the US
Tottenham Hotspur is introducing the first stand-alone NFL visitor attraction outside of the US, with the football club adding an American Football tour to its stadium experience.
Kengo Kuma-designed Odunpazari museum opens in Turkey
Kengo Kuma's latest creation – the Odunpazari Modern Museum in Eskisehir, Turkey – has opened, with the architect striving to create a sense of intimacy and warmth through its wood-clad buildings.
+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILE
RMA Ltd

RMA Ltd is a one-stop global company that can design, build and produce from a greenfield site upw [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

EAS rebrands to IAAPA Expo Europe ahead of 2019 show in Paris
The Euro Attractions Show has been rebranded as the IAAPA Expo Europe ahead of this year's event at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles exhibition centre. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion Showreel 2018
Red Raion is the CGI studio specialized in media based attraction. Find out more...
More videos:
Jurassic War - Immersive tunnel movie trailer – Red Raion
Trailer Peter Pan - Saving Tinkerbell VR – Red Raion
Red Raion: Meet the Team - Introduction – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

16-19 Sep 2019

IAAPA Expo Europe 2019

Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, Paris, France
17 Sep 2019

TEA Western Division TEA Talks Live: TEA Masters

CalArts Walt Disney Modular Theater, Valencia, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019

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