Merlin Entertainments has recommended that an offer to buy the company go ahead. The news comes around a month after ValueAct, an investment company and Merlin shareholder called for the business to be taken back to private ownership.
The consortium consists of Merlin’s largest shareholder Kirkbi, Blackstone and Canadian pensions fund CPPIB. Kirkbi is the investment company owned by the family of LEGO’s founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen. They are no stranger to Merlin, with Kirkbi already owning just under 30% of the publicly traded company and being a long term shareholder since 2005. The deal will take their stake in the company to 50% as part of the new consortium, known as Berkeley Bidco.
Blackstone are also no stranger to theme parks or indeed Merlin Entertainments. They previously owned Merlin after acquiring the group in 2005, and subsequently embarked on a rapid expansion by purchasing Alton Towers owner The Tussauds Group in 2007. Blackstone continued to hold shares in Merlin as a public company before selling their shares in 2015. The Blackstone Group have also previously owned considerable stakes in Seaworld Parks and Entertainment until 2017 and Universal Parks and Resorts until 2013.
Berkeley have already stated they have no plans to sell any part of the group, which consists of midway attractions and resort theme parks such as Alton Towers. Kirkbi chief executive Søren Thorup Sørensen said “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.”
Following the news breaking this morning, an announcement on Merlin’s website stated that “The Consortium recognises that significant, long-term investment is required to ensure the longevity of the existing assets and to drive continued growth for Merlin and its stakeholders.”
The offer prices each share at 455p, and is subject to shareholder approval.
What do you think of the news? Do you think it’s good news for Alton Towers or something that may hamper future development? Our forum has plenty of discussion on this story and every other aspect of both Alton Towers and the theme park industry worldwide.