GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window
FIBO Exhibition
FIBO Exhibition
FIBO Exhibition
Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn Follow Health Club Management on Instagram
UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

News

Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn

Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors in a deal at 12 x EBITDA.

Merlin is currently the world’s second largest family entertainment company – with Disney being the largest – and it has more than 130 attractions around the world.

The acquisition values Merlin's shares at £4.8bn (€5.35bn, USS$6.1bn), plus a further £1.1bn in debt.

The deal will see a newly created entity, Bidco, take control of 70 per cent of Merlin's shares.

Bidco is owned by Kirkbi – a wholly owned subsidiary of KIRKBI A/S, the private holding and investment company of the Kirk Kristiansen family which manages the LEGO brand – private equity giant Blackstone Core Equity Partners and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

Kirkbi will own 50 per cent of Bidco, while Blackstone and CPPIB will jointly own the other half.

Kirkbi already owns almost a third (29.58 per cent) of the shares in Merlin. It is anticipated that, upon the acquisition becoming effective, Kirkbi will transfer the Shares to Bidco.

In a statement, Merlin said: "The independent directors of Merlin Entertainments are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash offer to be made by Bidco for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin – other than Merlin Shares owned or controlled by Kirkbi.

"The acquisition values the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin at approximately £4.8bn on a fully diluted basis and implies an enterprise value of £5.9bn (US$7.49bn €6.58bn) – a multiple of approximately 12 x Merlin's underlying EBITDA of £494m (US$627m €550m) for the year ended 29 December 2018."

Kirkbi and Blackstone jointly controlled Merlin in the eight years prior to the 2013 public listing, during which time Merlin became the second largest location-based entertainment business globally, behind Disney.

In a short statement, the new owners added: "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."

Merlin, which was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, will have its shares de-listed as part of the deal.

BACKGROUND

The Merlin portfolio has expanded over the decades by acquisition and organic growth. The company acquired the Tussaud's Group attractions in May 2007 via its backer, The Blackstone Group, for £1bn (which was then US$1.9bn), has grown its own brands, based on IPs including Lego Discovery Centres, Shrek, Bear Grylls and Sea Life Centres to create a midway division, and has acquired attractions from other operators.

GLOBAL EXPANSIONIt entered the Australian market in 2011 when it purchased the Sydney Attractions Group, which at that time operated the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower and Sydney Wildlife World. It operates 13 attractions in total in Australia and New Zealand.

PARTNERSHIP WITH LEGO

Merlin's partnership with LEGO goes back to July 2005, when Blackstone acquired the Legoland theme parks portfolio from Kirkbi in a £259m deal which included four sites – in Germany, UK, Denmark and US – and a 176-room Legoland hotel adjacent to the theme park in the Danish town of Billund.

In December 2004, Lego had reported that it was unlikely to break even and would consequently be transferring its LEGOLAND parks either partly or wholly to new owners and a separate company, so it could focus on its core play materials business.

MERGER OF LEGO THEME PARKS AND MERLINBlackstone merged the business with Merlin Entertainments, which it had acquired the previous month. At the time, the combined businesses welcomed 12m visitors a year.

SALE AND LEASEBACK WITH PRESTBURY

On 17 July 2007, the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds were sold to Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury under a sale and leaseback agreement.

The company said would be using the money for investment purposes and to pay off outstanding debts. Although the attractions assets are owned by Prestbury, they continue to be operated by Merlin on a renewable 35-year lease.

STOCK MARKET FLOATATIONThe company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2013, at which time it was valued at £3.5bn. Around 1,700 of Merlin's 10,000 permanent staff were awarded shares on the basis of long service or outstanding contribution

NICK VARNEY

CEO Nick Varney has been at the helm of the business since its inception.

After a stint at Tussauds Group in the 1990s, where he was marketing director of Alton Towers and head of group marketing, he moved to become MD of Vardon Attractions – owner of the Sea Life Centres – and a main board director of Vardon plc.

The move was widely questioned, as Varney had been heir apparent to become CEO of Tussauds, but the decision paid off when Merlin acquired The Tussauds Group.

In 1999, Varney led a management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments and in 2005, initiated the process which led to its acquisition by The Blackstone Group.

In an exclusive interview with Attractions Management, Varney said the secret of the company's success is "Having a great team, an audacious vision, and a lot of luck."

FURTHER INSIGHTSFor further insights into the history of the development and funding of Merlin, read Deloitte's Nigel Bland in Attractions Management from 2014 here.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors.
TAW,VAT
imagesX/THUMB342322_41992_327017.jpg
Latest News
A global innovation competition has been launched to find ways to encourage and support more ...
Latest News
Xponential Fitness has acquired Body Fit Training in a deal worth US$44m. The deal takes ...
Latest News
Exercise has been highlighted as a crucial weapon in cancer patients’ battle against the disease. ...
Latest News
The global health and fitness industry is returning to a busy programme of live trade ...
Latest News
Matrix and Intelivideo have signed a strategic partnership, which will see Intelivideo's fitness content integrated ...
Latest News
Nadine Dorries, the recently appointed secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport at ...
Latest News
Mindbody has announced it's buying ClassPass, the consumer wellness subscription service that enables people to ...
Latest News
Tanni Grey-Thompson has outlined her vision on how the physical activity sector can play "the ...
HCM Magazine
HCM People
The market is there for the taking. We can lay the groundwork to prevent the region and continent from joining the statistics of the global obesity crisis by instilling fitness awareness
HCM Magazine
Active ageing
David Minton says the healthy movement industry is ten times bigger than the health club sector, and the care industry four times bigger and ask why we’re not rushing to collaborate?
HCM Magazine
Everyone’s talking about
In the last issue of HCM, we checked with big box operators in the UK to see how trading has been going since restrictions were lifted. This month we turn our attention to boutiques and urban studios to find out how they’re faring. Kath Hudson reports
HCM Magazine
Mental health
Research confirms the role health clubs can play in supporting people in nurturing their mental health, as Victor Brick explains
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Active IQ is launching courses to upskill fitness professionals to work in social prescribing, extending the reach of the industry
HCM Magazine
Interview
David Lloyd Leisure has not only regained its pre-pandemic member numbers, it’s also seeking acquisitions, going hard on digital and continuing to upgrade its portfolio. Its CEO talks to Kate Cracknell
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Andy Janes and Jamie Whisken explain the vision behind R1SE Bournemouth, and why Technogym was their choice of partner in delivering their unique fusion boutique
HCM Magazine
HCM magazine
Research firm Qualtrics surveyed 12,157 consumers across 15 countries in seven languages to create the Les Mills 2021 Global Fitness Report, highlighting the ways consumers are choosing to work out as we emerge from the pandemic. Jak Phillips reports
HCM magazine
Screens display power generated from each piece of equipment, allowing people to compete against each other for kilowatt hours produced
HCM magazine
Focusing on dieting has failed to offset the rising tide of obesity, say researchers from the Universities of Arizona and Virginia. A focus on fitness gives better health outcomes
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Technogym awarded “Supplier of the year” at ukactive awards 2021
The best in class of the physical activity sector have been revealed at the ukactive Awards 2021.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Life Fitness introduces Integrity SL, the next generation LED console
Life Fitness has unveiled the new Integrity SL, its connected LED console designed for the Integrity Series cardio portfolio.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
Company profiles
Company profile: Art of Cryo
Art of Cryo is a new division of a renowned family business with 30 years’ ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Orbit4
Orbit4 is the umbrella brand for FitnessCompared, FitnessFinance, WeServiceGymEquipment and WeBuyGymEquipment....
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Fitness equipment
Octane Fitness: Fitness equipment
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates

News

Lego buys Merlin in a deal valuing it at US$7.49bn

Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors in a deal at 12 x EBITDA.

Merlin is currently the world’s second largest family entertainment company – with Disney being the largest – and it has more than 130 attractions around the world.

The acquisition values Merlin's shares at £4.8bn (€5.35bn, USS$6.1bn), plus a further £1.1bn in debt.

The deal will see a newly created entity, Bidco, take control of 70 per cent of Merlin's shares.

Bidco is owned by Kirkbi – a wholly owned subsidiary of KIRKBI A/S, the private holding and investment company of the Kirk Kristiansen family which manages the LEGO brand – private equity giant Blackstone Core Equity Partners and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

Kirkbi will own 50 per cent of Bidco, while Blackstone and CPPIB will jointly own the other half.

Kirkbi already owns almost a third (29.58 per cent) of the shares in Merlin. It is anticipated that, upon the acquisition becoming effective, Kirkbi will transfer the Shares to Bidco.

In a statement, Merlin said: "The independent directors of Merlin Entertainments are pleased to announce that they have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended cash offer to be made by Bidco for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin – other than Merlin Shares owned or controlled by Kirkbi.

"The acquisition values the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Merlin at approximately £4.8bn on a fully diluted basis and implies an enterprise value of £5.9bn (US$7.49bn €6.58bn) – a multiple of approximately 12 x Merlin's underlying EBITDA of £494m (US$627m €550m) for the year ended 29 December 2018."

Kirkbi and Blackstone jointly controlled Merlin in the eight years prior to the 2013 public listing, during which time Merlin became the second largest location-based entertainment business globally, behind Disney.

In a short statement, the new owners added: "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."

Merlin, which was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013, will have its shares de-listed as part of the deal.

BACKGROUND

The Merlin portfolio has expanded over the decades by acquisition and organic growth. The company acquired the Tussaud's Group attractions in May 2007 via its backer, The Blackstone Group, for £1bn (which was then US$1.9bn), has grown its own brands, based on IPs including Lego Discovery Centres, Shrek, Bear Grylls and Sea Life Centres to create a midway division, and has acquired attractions from other operators.

GLOBAL EXPANSIONIt entered the Australian market in 2011 when it purchased the Sydney Attractions Group, which at that time operated the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower and Sydney Wildlife World. It operates 13 attractions in total in Australia and New Zealand.

PARTNERSHIP WITH LEGO

Merlin's partnership with LEGO goes back to July 2005, when Blackstone acquired the Legoland theme parks portfolio from Kirkbi in a £259m deal which included four sites – in Germany, UK, Denmark and US – and a 176-room Legoland hotel adjacent to the theme park in the Danish town of Billund.

In December 2004, Lego had reported that it was unlikely to break even and would consequently be transferring its LEGOLAND parks either partly or wholly to new owners and a separate company, so it could focus on its core play materials business.

MERGER OF LEGO THEME PARKS AND MERLINBlackstone merged the business with Merlin Entertainments, which it had acquired the previous month. At the time, the combined businesses welcomed 12m visitors a year.

SALE AND LEASEBACK WITH PRESTBURY

On 17 July 2007, the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds were sold to Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury under a sale and leaseback agreement.

The company said would be using the money for investment purposes and to pay off outstanding debts. Although the attractions assets are owned by Prestbury, they continue to be operated by Merlin on a renewable 35-year lease.

STOCK MARKET FLOATATIONThe company floated on the London Stock Exchange in November 2013, at which time it was valued at £3.5bn. Around 1,700 of Merlin's 10,000 permanent staff were awarded shares on the basis of long service or outstanding contribution

NICK VARNEY

CEO Nick Varney has been at the helm of the business since its inception.

After a stint at Tussauds Group in the 1990s, where he was marketing director of Alton Towers and head of group marketing, he moved to become MD of Vardon Attractions – owner of the Sea Life Centres – and a main board director of Vardon plc.

The move was widely questioned, as Varney had been heir apparent to become CEO of Tussauds, but the decision paid off when Merlin acquired The Tussauds Group.

In 1999, Varney led a management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments and in 2005, initiated the process which led to its acquisition by The Blackstone Group.

In an exclusive interview with Attractions Management, Varney said the secret of the company's success is "Having a great team, an audacious vision, and a lot of luck."

FURTHER INSIGHTSFor further insights into the history of the development and funding of Merlin, read Deloitte's Nigel Bland in Attractions Management from 2014 here.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Global attractions giant, Merlin Entertainments, has been sold to the family behind toy firm Lego in partnership with two other investors.
TAW,VAT
imagesX/THUMB342322_41992_327017.jpg

News

A global innovation competition has been launched to find ways to encourage and support more
Xponential Fitness has acquired Body Fit Training in a deal worth US$44m. The deal takes
Exercise has been highlighted as a crucial weapon in cancer patients’ battle against the disease.
The global health and fitness industry is returning to a busy programme of live trade
Matrix and Intelivideo have signed a strategic partnership, which will see Intelivideo's fitness content integrated
Nadine Dorries, the recently appointed secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport at
FIBO Exhibition
FIBO Exhibition
Life Fitness has unveiled the new Integrity SL, its connected LED console designed for the
Mindbody has announced it's buying ClassPass, the consumer wellness subscription service that enables people to
Tanni Grey-Thompson has outlined her vision on how the physical activity sector can play "the
The Global Health & Fitness Alliance (GHFA) has revealed the makeup of its inaugural nine-member
The 40th Annual IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show (IHRSA 2021) begins today in Dallas,
A new study has suggested that strength training can result in people losing around a
Basic-Fit has officially opened its 1,000th club, with the launch of a new site in
FreeMotion Fitness
FreeMotion Fitness
Matt Miller, founder of leading yoga training platform Broga has announced the launch of Earth+Sky
Health club operator Life Time Group has become a publicly traded company again, after it
Creating workout experiences will be the main theme of this year's Retention Convention, which will
Marg Mayne will stand down as CEO of Mytime Active next year, after more than
French car manufacturer Citroën and hotel brand Pullman Hotels & Resorts have partnered to create
Les Mills is expanding its digital operations by replacing its existing on-demand services with the
Sport England has spent £1.5m launching its own on-demand fitness platform, with the hope of
Les Mills
Les Mills
The best in class of the physical activity sector have been revealed at the ukactive
New research by Barclays Corporate Banking reveals that the leisure, fitness, spa and hospitality industries
Tanni Grey-Thompson has announced she will hand over her role as ukactive chair in August
Innovatise UK Ltd
Innovatise UK Ltd
1 - 20 of 12,050
HCM Magazine
HCM People
The market is there for the taking. We can lay the groundwork to prevent the region and continent from joining the statistics of the global obesity crisis by instilling fitness awareness
HCM Magazine
Active ageing
David Minton says the healthy movement industry is ten times bigger than the health club sector, and the care industry four times bigger and ask why we’re not rushing to collaborate?
HCM Magazine
Everyone’s talking about
In the last issue of HCM, we checked with big box operators in the UK to see how trading has been going since restrictions were lifted. This month we turn our attention to boutiques and urban studios to find out how they’re faring. Kath Hudson reports
HCM Magazine
Mental health
Research confirms the role health clubs can play in supporting people in nurturing their mental health, as Victor Brick explains
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Active IQ is launching courses to upskill fitness professionals to work in social prescribing, extending the reach of the industry
HCM Magazine
Interview
David Lloyd Leisure has not only regained its pre-pandemic member numbers, it’s also seeking acquisitions, going hard on digital and continuing to upgrade its portfolio. Its CEO talks to Kate Cracknell
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Andy Janes and Jamie Whisken explain the vision behind R1SE Bournemouth, and why Technogym was their choice of partner in delivering their unique fusion boutique
HCM Magazine
HCM magazine
Research firm Qualtrics surveyed 12,157 consumers across 15 countries in seven languages to create the Les Mills 2021 Global Fitness Report, highlighting the ways consumers are choosing to work out as we emerge from the pandemic. Jak Phillips reports
HCM magazine
Screens display power generated from each piece of equipment, allowing people to compete against each other for kilowatt hours produced
HCM magazine
Focusing on dieting has failed to offset the rising tide of obesity, say researchers from the Universities of Arizona and Virginia. A focus on fitness gives better health outcomes
HCM magazine
As the UK government’s social prescribing initiative gains momentum, Kenny Butler calls on the sector to step up and get involved
HCM magazine
This year’s edition of the IHRSA Global Report which addresses performance from 2020, is a valuable record of the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, creating a benchmark from which to understand the recovery. Kristen Walsh reports for HCM
HCM magazine
HCM People

Danielle Obe

Chair, The Black Swimming Association
Our vision is a future with ethnic diversity in aquatics
HCM magazine
At TGOGC, we believe our own wellbeing is wrapped up in nature and the positive impact we can each have on the health of the planet
HCM magazine
In this issue, we’re focusing on sharing insights and thought leadership to highlight opportunities for the development of the sector in terms of both markets and offerings, says Liz Terry, HCM editor
HCM magazine
I’d like to see the gym sector help champion the social prescribing agenda, as a route to getting more people engaged in physical activity
HCM magazine
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Technogym awarded “Supplier of the year” at ukactive awards 2021
The best in class of the physical activity sector have been revealed at the ukactive Awards 2021.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Life Fitness introduces Integrity SL, the next generation LED console
Life Fitness has unveiled the new Integrity SL, its connected LED console designed for the Integrity Series cardio portfolio.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
Company profiles
Company profile: Art of Cryo
Art of Cryo is a new division of a renowned family business with 30 years’ ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Orbit4
Orbit4 is the umbrella brand for FitnessCompared, FitnessFinance, WeServiceGymEquipment and WeBuyGymEquipment....
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Fitness equipment
Octane Fitness: Fitness equipment
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
FIBO Exhibition
FIBO Exhibition