In 2005, as part of a re-structure to return to its core business, the LEGO Group sold its theme parks to the Blackstone Group retaining 29.6%. In the process a new company was created called Merlin Entertainment. Twelve years later, almost to the day, a group of investors led by Kirkbi have had an offer accepted to takeover Merlin Entertainment for £4.8bn. Kirkbi is owned and run by the founding family of LEGO and owns 75% of the LEGO Group.
The LEGO Group have licenses with Disney and Lucasfilm, whereas Merlin Entertainment did not. With this change in ownership could we see a return of the popular LEGO Star Wars Weekends back to LEGOLAND, we will be watching closely for sure.
Kirkbi Invest says it has the money and experience to “realise the company’s potential to grow”.
Merlin also owns the London Eye and Alton Towers.
Kirkbi already owns almost a third of the shares in Merlin Entertainments, and says it does not expect the deal to lead to any significant changes.
All existing Merlin attractions in the UK will remain open and it has no plans to sell any part of the business, it said.
Kirkbi chief executive Søren Thorup Sørensen said the group wanted to help the firm reach its “full potential, which we believe is best pursued under private ownership”.
“With a shared understanding of the business and its culture, we believe that this group of investors has the unique collective resources necessary to equip Merlin, for their next phase of growth,” he added.
Private equity firm Blackstone – part of the investment group – said it had the “substantial resources” required to support Merlin’s long-term plans “which will require significant investment to ensure its long-term success”.
Merlin is the second-largest operator of visitor attractions globally with more than 130 attractions in 25 countries.