Lego parent buys Madame Tussauds owner Merlin for £5 bil

Legoland-owner Merlin Entertainments agrees £4.8bn offer

A group of investors, including the family behind toy giant Lego, has agreed to pay for $7.5 billion for Merlin Entertainments, which operates Legoland theme parks and Madame Tussaudsm known for its Ariana Grande and Meghan Markle wax figurines.

The Kirk Kristiansen family, through its Kirkbi investment vehicle, was already Merlin's largest shareholder with a 30% stake.

Kirkbi, which has joined forces with Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB to secure the deal, already owns almost 30 per cent of Merlin, which operates the Legoland theme parks around the world.

Merlin chairman John Sunderland 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". The move values the company behind the likes of Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park at £4.766bn and implies an enterprise value of £5.9bn. The offer price is 12x the value of Merlin's underlying EBITDA of £494m for the year to 29 December 2018.

The investors will create a new company that will own 50 percent of Merlin Entertainment.

He said Merlin as a global leader in family entertainment with brands spread in 25 countries had a proven strategy that delivered for many years.

Merlin, which also has Alton Towers, already had close connections to Lego, operating the Legoland centres in the United Kingdom and with the Danish firm already owning 30 per cent.

Toronto Raptors will get the final free agency meeting with Kawhi Leonard
Less urgent is a potential extension for forward Pascal Siakam , a runaway victor of the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Kawhi Leonard might be in the Barbados, but all eyes in the National Basketball Association remain on the superstar.

Mr Sunderland said the board unanimously recommended the deal to the company's shareholders.

The deal is expected to complete in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Kirkbi CEO said the shared understanding of the business and culture will help Kirkbi and others to pool collective resources to equip Merlin for the next phase of growth.

More public companies have been going private, fueled by buyout firms' growing cash reserves.

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.

The consortium said it recognized "significant, long-term investment is required", a process that will be easier when Merlin is no longer a listed company.

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