Merlin Entertainments Group A New Force in Global Leisure

London, New York, Dubai – Tuesday 22nd May 2007: 8.30am (UK)

Following approval (from EU Competition Authorities) the deal announced in March between Merlin Entertainments Group (“Merlin”), and The Tussauds Group has been completed today. This deal creates the world’s second biggest visitor attractions operator after Disney – Merlin Entertainments Group.

Merlin’s 51 attractions and 4 hotels welcomed 30 million visitors in 2006, and are on track to increase that figure substantially in 2007. Globally it employs 13000 people in 12 countries and across 3 continents – Europe, North America and Asia. Merlin’s iconic brands – global and local – include LEGOLAND, Madame Tussauds, British Airways London Eye, SEA LIFE, Dungeons, Gardaland and Alton Towers. This unique and well balanced portfolio attracts a broad customer base, appealing to all age groups; with huge potential for organic growth.

The company, led by Chief Executive Nick Varney will operate in future under a new divisional structure comprising:

Resort Theme Parks incorporating Gardaland, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Heide Park and Chessington World of Adventures;
Midway Attractions including Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE, London Eye, Dungeons, Warwick Castle, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Earth Explorer; and LEGOLAND Parks.

These will be supported by central development teams working to maximise the potential of existing sites; and find new locations and opportunities.

Peter Phillipson will become non-executive Chairman of the Group and Andrew Carr will remain as Chief Financial Officer.

Merlin’s proven growth success is based on its understanding and ability to develop highly distinctive and innovative brands, with strong core elements which are transferable across borders. This will remain central to the company’s future strategy. The new structure is designed to facilitate and accelerate the company’s dynamic plans, particularly in North America. In 2007/8 alone this includes:

  • New SEA LIFE opened in Hanover (February 2007)
  • Opening of first new indoor interactive City Centre attraction in Berlin – LEGOLAND Discovery Centre (April 2007)
  • First ‘LEGOLAND Atlantis by SEA LIFE’ attraction opened in LEGOLAND Denmark in March 2007
  • New leisure/corporate hotels to open at Chessington World Of Adventures in the UK in June 2007; and Heide Park in Germany in July 2007
  • Madame Tussauds to open in Washington DC in October 2007; and in Hollywood in Autumn 2008
  • 4 new SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre projects planned for 2008
  • Major new ride investment in Gardaland in 2008

Nick Varney commented:

‘The new Merlin Entertainments Group starts as an exceptional leisure business. It has an enviable combination of brands, expertise and resources second to none, not just in visitor attractions, but also in the leisure sector as a whole. We now have a clear opportunity to build on this with a strategy that includes:

  • continued development of existing attraction sites
  • roll-out of key midway brands in Europe, the USA, and beyond – development of new ‘linked’/original attraction concepts eg LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and LEGOLAND Atlantis by SEA LIFE
  • linking attraction concepts and hotels to create destination resorts.’

‘I believe that we now have a unique opportunity to become the world leader in location based, branded, quality family entertainment, and, with the support of our investors, my colleagues and I are entirely committed to achieving that objective’

– ends –

Please note:

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

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

Notes to Editors

  1. Merlin Entertainments Group, controlled by the Blackstone Group, has acquired The Tussauds Group from Dubai International Capital LLC (‘DIC’) for £1028 million and a 20% stake in the new company
  2. The major shareholder of the combined company will be Blackstone; with DIC, LEGO Holding/KIRKBI retaining significant minority investments
  3. Debt financing has been committed by Goldman Sachs, HVB and Lehman Brothers. The combined group will be refinanced following the close of the transaction
  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 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. ©2007 The LEGO Group.