Merlin acquired by Blackstone for £102.5m
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Merlin acquired by Blackstone for £102.5m

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US-based investment firm Blackstone Group has bought attractions operator Merlin Entertainments and Merlin management from Hermes Private Equity in a deal worth £102.5m ($187.2m).

Hermes bought the company just 15 months ago from JP Morgan and Apax Partners for £72.5m (US$138m).

According to the new owner, Merlin – which operates the London Dungeon and Sea Life brands in the UK and Europe – will become a platform for Blackstone to make further acquisitions in the European attractions market.

Senior managing director, Joseph Baratta, said: “We believe that the European attractions and theme park sector will enter a period of consolidation in the medium term and Merlin Entertainments is an excellent base from which to pursue follow-on acquisition opportunities.”

As reported in Leisure Opportunities (issue 391, 3 May 2005), Blackstone’s next acquisition could be the Legoland theme parks after its owner, Lego, recently announced its intention to offload its parks business.

Merlin currently operates 26 attractions in eight countries and attracted a total of six million visitors to its sites last year. If the four Legoland sites – in Germany, England, Denmark and California – were added to this, the combined company could welcome around 12 million visitors a year, placing it second behind the Tussauds Group, which has around 15 million visitors annually.

It is also thought that if the deal goes through, Sea Life Centres could potentially be added to each Legoland site. Details: www.merlinentertainments.biz

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US-based investment firm Blackstone Group has bought attractions operator Merlin Entertainments and Merlin management from Hermes Private Equity in a deal worth £102.5m ($187.2m).
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