Lego strikes deal to buy Legoland, Madame Tussauds

Legoland scene

Save Save Merlin operates Legoland and Madame Tussauds

Toy maker Lego and other investors are buying a British entertainment company that operates Legoland and other parks for $6 billion.

Merlin Entertainments, which also owns Madame Tussauds, is being sold to a group led by Kirkbi, the investment vehicle of the Danish Kirk Kristiansen family that founded Lego in 1934.

CPPIB is joining the founding family behind Lego and a unit of the Blackstone Group LP to purchase Merlin Entertainments PLC, a public company that has struggled with its share price since a 2013 initial public offering. Lego owner Kirkbi Invest already owns a stake of almost 30 percent.

Merlin Entertainments is now the second largest operator of visitor attractions after Disney. Merlin's shares jumped 14 percent in pre-trade.

The other partners are private equity buyer Blackstone and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

It is as yet unclear how this may affect the Blackpool attractions at the Tower, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Blackpool and the Blackpool Dungeon, but the new owners have said the deal will allow the company to grow.

ValueAct has agreed to back the going-private deal, according to Merlin documents prepared for shareholders.

Kirkbi already owns nearly a third of the shares in Merlin Entertainments, and says it does not expect the deal to lead to any significant changes.

The deal values Merlin shares at 455 pence each, giving the firm an enterprise value of 5.905 billion pounds, Merlin said on Friday.

Merlin said that the deal was good for shareholders and urged them to accept it.

Kirkbi and Blackstone said bit, long-term investment was needed to preserve the value of Merlin's operations and keep the company on a path of expansion.

The 67 million guests drawn to Merlin's 130 attractions, which also include Sea Life aquariums in the U.S. and a string of independent theme parks in Europe, spent $2.1 billion past year.

He added: "The Merlin independent directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realise value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation".

Merlin was founded in 1999, got listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013 and it recorded sales of 1.65 billion Pounds ($2.1 billion) in 2018 and Merlin's properties around the world attracted 67 million visitors previous year.

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