Merlin Entertainments Group ("Merlin"), Europe’s leading and the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, announces that Funds advised by CVC Capital Partners ("CVC") have agreed to acquire a 28 per cent stake in the Group in a move which will underpin Merlin’s ambitious growth plans.
Under the transaction, which values Merlin at £2.25bn, Blackstone has reduced its stake, but will continue to hold a significant interest in the company. KIRKBI, the privately-held, family-owned investment and holding company that controls the LEGO Group, has kept its shareholding unchanged. DIC has disposed of its remaining stake in line with its strategy of moving out of non-core holdings.
Merlin's ownership structure is now: KIRKBI 36 per cent, Blackstone 34 per cent and CVC 28 per cent. The management of Merlin will hold the remaining shares, with the owners setting aside a further significant stake for a staff incentive plan. Merlin is in advanced discussions around 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, which will position the company well to fund its ambitious growth programme.
Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin, said: "We are delighted that CVC has decided to invest in Merlin Entertainments as we continue to pursue our exciting plans to expand this unique business. 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 a long and consistent record of strong growth in both revenues and profits, industry leading margins and high returns on invested capital. We have successfully followed a clear and proven strategy to build a high-growth international family entertainment business, founded on strong brands and a portfolio of attractions balanced by geographies, products and demographics.
2Having thoroughly reviewed all the options for the next phase of ownership of Merlin, we believe this transaction represents the best way forward. We are very excited about this next stage in our story and look forward to working with CVC, alongside our continuing investors. Merlin has prospered under private-equity ownership and we believe that we will continue to do so. Our experienced management team has the ability and ambition to continue to deliver on our plans. This transaction will give us a substantial platform to further fuel our growth while delivering unforgettable experiences for our many millions of customers worldwide."
Rob Lucas, Managing Partner at CVC, said: "Merlin is a unique family entertainment group operating in exciting markets. It is driven by a committed and dedicated management team and backed by supportive owners who have invested to create this successful international business. We have been impressed by the significant growth that Merlin has delivered to date – but there is more to come. We at CVC are now pleased to be part of the ownership structure, and look forward to working with management and supporting Merlin in this next phase of international growth."
Joseph Baratta, Senior Managing Director of Blackstone, said: "Merlin has delivered great returns for Blackstone investors. We are very proud of our involvement with the company and the substantial investment it has made in local communities around the world. 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."
Soren Thorup Sorensen, Chief Executive Officer of KIRKBI, said: "KIRKBI's long-term investment in Merlin is a strategic priority. Merlin is our partner in managing the future growth of the LEGOLAND Parks. The company has the culture, management and drive to achieve great things and we want to remain a part of that throughout their continued development."