If this is good news for the parks, which it looks like then I guess I am happy about this lol.
Good read here:
The stuffy official PR here:
LEGO Group in partnership with Merlin Entertainments
As part of a deal agreed today with private investment company Blackstone Capital Partners IV, an affiliate of the Blackstone Group, the European family entertainment company Merlin Entertainments and the LEGO Group, have established a new combined business which will own and manage both the four LEGOLAND Parks, and Merlin’s present attraction brands – Sea Life, Earth Explorer and Dungeons.
In connection with the agreement, Blackstone Capital Partners buys the LEGOLAND Parks for €375m. Blackstone and management will take 70 per cent of the shares in the new Merlin Entertainments Group while the remaining 30 per cent will be held by the LEGO Group and Kirkbi A/S.
With 12 million annual visitors the new company will be both the second largest visitor attraction business in Europe with 2 out of Europe’s 3 largest brands – LEGOLAND and Sea Life - and the 9th largest operator in the world.
The new ownership will take effect from 1 July 2005. Both Blackstone/Merlin and the LEGO Group will be represented on the Board of Directors of the new Merlin Entertainments Group. The Board members from the LEGO Group will be CFO Jesper Ovesen and Senior Vice President, Global Innovation and Marketing, Mads Nipper. CEO of the new company will be the present CEO of Merlin Entertainments, Nick Varney.
LEGO Group owner, Mr. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, commenting on the new partnership, said: "The toy market has been declining for some time and is extremely competitive. To consolidate its position, the LEGO Group chose to sell its majority holding in the LEGOLAND Parks in order to focus on closer relations with our customers and consumers, improved marketing, and a greater emphasis on core products. It was however extremely important for us that the new ownership was based on the true LEGO values of playful learning and creative experiences of a high quality, and in Merlin Entertainments we have found a very professional partner with whom we can really release the potential of the LEGOLAND Parks. We have no doubt that together we will create a very strong player within the worldwide family attractions sector.”
CEO of Merlin Entertainments, Nick Varney, says:
"We see the new partnership as an excellent platform from which to realise the growth potential of both businesses, not just in Europe, but worldwide. Together they create a balanced portfolio of ‘chainable’ brands which are transferable across borders; and which is naturally protected against external factors such as weather, international visitor trends, and local market economics.”
CEO of the LEGO Group, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, says:
"With this new partnership, we will create a formidable new player within the family attractions sector, and that is why we want to be part of the new ownership. At the same time, the new ownership structure enables the LEGO Group to increase its focus on its core business.”
The sale of the majority of the shares in the LEGOLAND Parks is an element in the Action Plan which the LEGO Group began to implement in March 2004. Among the objectives of the plan is the reduction of the LEGO Group’s asset base and increasing focus on the core business, toys.
The agreement is subject to approval by EU competition authorities.
The four LEGOLAND Parks are based in Denmark, England, USA and Germany, while Merlin Entertainments has 28 attractions in eight countries in Europe, and a head office in Poole in the UK.
During the process, Morgan Stanley and PricewaterhouseCoopers were advisers to the LEGO Group.