Merlin and Tussauds to Create World’s Second Largest Visitor Attraction Group

London, New York, Dubai – Monday 5th March 2007: 8.30am (UK)

Merlin Entertainments Group (“Merlin”), controlled by the Blackstone Group (“Blackstone”), and The Tussauds Group (“TTG”), controlled by Dubai International Capital LLC (“DIC”), are today announcing a partnership of two rapidly growing businesses. This brings together some of the biggest brand names in the global theme park and attractions market and positions the combined Merlin Entertainments Group as the world’s second biggest visitor attractions operator after Disney.

DIC will receive £1,028 million cash and retain a 20% stake in the combined company, investing alongside majority owner Blackstone and LEGO Holding/KIRKBI Groups.

Transaction highlights:

  • Merlin Entertainments Group and The Tussauds Group combined welcomed over 30 million visitors to their 50 attractions and four hotels in 2006. Globally they operate in 12 countries and across three continents (Europe, North America, Asia); employing over 13,000 staff
  • Combines some of the world’s best-known attractions brands, including Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, SEA LIFE, British Airways London Eye, Gardaland
  • Enlarged portfolio of market-leading, resort-led theme parks, including Alton Towers in the UK; Gardaland in Italy; and the four LEGOLAND parks in USA and Europe
  • Expanded management team will see Merlin’s Chief Executive, Nick Varney, as CEO of the enlarged group, with Tussauds’ Chief Executive Peter Phillipson becoming non-executive Chairman of the enlarged group; Merlin’s Andrew Carr as Chief Financial Officer of the enlarged group; and Tussauds’ CFO Rob Roger leading the integration project. Other senior appointments will be announced in due course

Commenting on the transaction, Merlin’s Chief Executive Nick Varney said, “The combination of the Merlin and Tussauds brands, people, and operating expertise will create an exciting and world-beating global entertainment company. With such iconic brands, the expanded Merlin will not only have strong development potential, but also an amazingly robust and high value portfolio. Our ambition is to build on this to become the world leader in location based, branded, family entertainment.

“The deal is a major strategic move for Merlin which has already seen the most successful and dynamic growth in the sector over the last five years. It not only expands our business both geographically and demographically, but also underlines our objective to build a balanced portfolio. The combined Group also has the resources and expertise to focus on accelerating current expansion plans for all the brands, particularly in North America.”

Commenting, Peter Phillipson, Tussauds’ Chief Executive said “Under DIC’s ownership, we have continued to make significant progress against our strategic objectives. We have acquired the British Airways London Eye, continued the international roll out of Madame Tussauds, and the construction of hotels at Chessington and Heide Park is progressing well.

“Joining forces with Merlin represents a very exciting opportunity to develop these brands as part of the world’s second largest visitor attractions business. The combined group will be in an excellent position to continue the development of
The London Eye and our theme parks, as well as accelerate the rollout of Madame Tussauds around the world. I am very much looking forward to working closely with Nick Varney to build a great business for our staff, customers and shareholders.”

Merlin is majority owned by Blackstone who purchased the company for £102 million in May 2005. Since then it has worked with management to complete the acquisitions of the LEGOLAND chain of theme parks (August 2005) and Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland (October 2006).

Commenting, Joseph Baratta, a Blackstone Senior Managing Director, said “We are proud and pleased to have been able to support Merlin management in building this extraordinary business. This situation is a perfect example of the benefits of private equity ownership. Both Merlin and The Tussauds Group have grown significantly as a result of the support of their private equity owners. Blackstone and DIC have made substantial capital investments in these companies over the last few years and have enabled them to become market leaders. We believe the combination of Merlin and The Tussauds Group creates a European champion in the global leisure industry. Blackstone and the LEGO Holding/KIRKBI Groups welcome our partnership with DIC.”

Sameer Al Ansari, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dubai International Capital, said: “We are pleased with today’s announcement. It is in line with DIC’s strategy that involves backing incumbent management and investing in the businesses we acquire. As responsible long-term investors, we believe that this is an excellent deal for Tussauds. Under DIC’s ownership and within two years, Tussauds business has grown significantly, making the Tussauds brand a truly global one.

“This deal is a natural evolution for the Tussauds Group as the combined firm will become the world’s second largest leisure operator. We are looking forward to partnering with Blackstone and LEGO Holding/KIRKBI Groups to help the business take the next step in its development. Tussauds and Merlin are very complementary businesses and there is an obvious commercial logic in bringing them together. As a reflection of our confidence in this deal, DIC will retain 20% of the larger business and we hope to share in the benefits of its future profitable growth.”

– ends –

Please note:

Photographs of Merlin key personnel and the attractions are available from Penny King or visit the Merlin website at:

Broadcast quality footage of Merlin attractions is also available. More detailed company backgrounders will be supplied on request.

Notes to Editors

  1. The major shareholder of the combined company will be Blackstone, with DIC, LEGO Holding/KIRKBI and management team retaining significant minority investments
  2. Debt financing has been committed by Goldman Sachs, HVB and Lehman Brothers. The combined group will be refinanced following the close of the transaction
  3. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval
  4. Blackstone was advised by Goldman Sachs
  5. Merlin were advised by Lehman Brothers and UBS
  6. DIC and Tussauds were advised by Citigroup

About Merlin Entertainments

Merlin Entertainments is a leading visitor attraction operator in Europe, and has seen the most successful and dynamic growth in the sector over the last five years – both through organic roll-out, and by strategic acquisition. It operates 38 attractions across 11 countries under the LEGOLAND, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, SEA LIFE, Gardaland, Dungeon, Earth Explorer brands. In 2006 Merlin welcomed over 16 million visitors to its attractions; and the company has an EBITDA which has risen by over 10 times in the same period (18% in 2006 alone – excluding acquisition)

Merlin’s attractions appeal to a broad customer base of families, teens and young adults. The group operates in the following countries: UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, USA.

About The Tussauds Group

The Tussauds Group is one of Europe’s leading visitor attraction businesses and has achieved compound organic EBITDA growth of over 14% over the last six years. This has been supplemented by the rollout of Madame Tussauds, and acquisitions of The British Airways London Eye and Heide Park resulting in EBITDA compound growth of 21%. In 2006 the Group achieved around £100m of EBITDA. Over the period, under Charterhouse and DIC’s ownership, Tussauds has increased employment from around 2000 employees to over 6000 employees, and consistently improved both staff and customer satisfaction scores. Tussauds attracts over 14 million visitors a year to its famous attractions around the world.

The Tussauds Group consists of City Centre Attractions (Six Madame Tussauds – London, New York, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Shanghai, Hong Kong; The British Airways London Eye and Warwick Castle); and Theme Parks (Alton Towers; Thorpe Park; Chessington World of Adventures in the UK and Heide Park in Germany).

About The Blackstone Group

The Blackstone Group, a global private investment and advisory firm, was founded in 1985. The firm has raised a total of more then $67 billion for alternative asset investing since its formation of which approximately $30 billion has been for private equity investing. The Private Equity Group is currently investing its fifth general private equity fund with commitments of $15.6 billion, and has 78 experienced professionals with broad sector expertise. Other private equity investments in the leisure sector have included Universal Studios in Orlando, and Six Flags Theme Park. Blackstone’s other core businesses include Private Real Estate Investing, Corporate Debt Investing, Hedge Funds, Mutual Fund Management, Private Placement, Marketable Alternative Asset Management, and Investment Banking Advisory Services

About Dubai International Capital LLC

Established in 2004, Dubai International Capital LLC (DIC) is a Dubai-based international investment company. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai Holding. DIC manages an international portfolio of diverse assets that provide its stakeholders with value growth, diversification, and strategic investments and relationships.

DIC’s investments have included: US$ 1.23 billion acquisition of Travelodge (UK), Britain’s fastest growing hotel company, US$ 1 billion stake in DaimlerChrysler, the world’s second largest carmaker and the US$ 1.2 billion acquisition of Doncasters Group (UK), an industrial manufacturing firm that produces precision engineering components across various industrial sectors.

DIC is a substantial investor in the Middle East. Investments include Ishraq, a US$150 million investment company that was formed to bring the Holiday Inn Express brand of hotels to the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries; and MENA Infrastructure Fund, a US$500 million fund targeting investment opportunities in infrastructure projects in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2005, DIC launched Jordan Dubai Capital, a $300 million investment company that targets private equity opportunities in the Jordanian economy.

Additional information about Dubai International Capital is available at:

About LEGO Group

The LEGO Group is a privately held, family-owned company, based in Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 4,500 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries. LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2006 The LEGO Group.