UK-based Merlin Entertainments plc is to be acquired by Berkeley Bidco Ltd, a consortium comprising Kirkbi, the investment vehicle of Lego’s Danish billionaire founding family, private equity firm Blackstone Group LP, and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.
Merlin, founded in 1999, is the world’s second biggest attractions operator behind Disney, operating 130 attractions, 19 hotels and six holiday villages in 25 countries. These include Legoland Discovery Centres, Sea Life, Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers, and Chessington World of Adventures.
Kirkbi has maintained a 29% strategic stake in Merlin since its sale of Legoland Parks to Merlin in 2005. The proposed acquisition values the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin at approximately £4,766 million (€5,320m) on a fully diluted basis and implies an enterprise value of £5,905 million (€6,593m).
Sir John Sunderland, Chairman, Merlin Entertainments, said: “Following an unsolicited approach by a consortium of investors, and after rejecting a number of their proposals, 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. We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders.”
Soren Thorup Sorensen, Chief Executive, Kirkbi, said: “As the long-term owner of the Lego brand and as a strategic shareholder in Merlin since 2005, we have great pride and passion for this amazing company, its management team and its employees. 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, including the Legoland Parks and Legoland Discovery Centres, for their next phase of growth.
“We are committed to ensuring Legoland and the other activities in Merlin reach their full potential, which we believe is best pursued under private ownership, in order to deliver fantastic experiences to visitors of all ages around the world.”