Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Merlin announces new shareholder

Europe’s leading attraction operator, Merlin Entertainments has announced that CVC Capital Partners (CVC) has agreed to acquire a 28% stake in the group.

The transaction, which values Merlin at £2.25 billion ($3.35bn/€2.75bn), means a reduced stake for Blackstone, although it still retains a significant share of the business together with KIRKBI, the family-owned investment and holding company that controls Lego.

Merlin’s ownership structure is now composed as follows: KIRKBI 36%, Blackstone 34%, CVC 28%. The remaining 2% has been retained by the management, with a stake set aside for a staff incentive plan.

Like Blackstone, CVC is a leading private equity firm, managing over US$38 billion provided by pension funds, financial institutions and various other partners. In total, CVC has completed over 250 investments across a wide range of industries and countries, and currently owns 53 companies worldwide.

Merlin is now in advanced discussions about extending the maturities on its existing debt facilities, but the transaction is not subject to lender consent and Merlin does not intend to increase its financial leverage.

“Having thoroughly reviewed all the options for the next phase of ownership of Merlin, we believe this transaction represents the best way forward,” reports chief executive Nick Varney. “This deal recognises the inherent value and potential of the business and will provide us with the on-going investment necessary to help us achieve our ambitions. Merlin has prospered under private-equity ownership and we believe that we will continue to do so.”

Commenting on its reduced stake, Blackstone managing director Joseph Baratta, remarked: “Merlin has delivered great returns for Blackstone investors. We are very proud of our involvement. This deal with CVC will allow us to realise part of our investment, while remaining a committed part of the ownership team of a business which we believe will continue to deliver great growth.”

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