Legoland Sale to Blackstone Now Official

Merlin Entertainment Groups, co-owned by Blackstone and Lego, will be the parks' new owner in a $460 million deal.

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Published: July 13, 2005 at 10:52 AM

Following earlier reports on TPI and elsewhere, Blackstone Capital Partners has now made official that it is buying the Legoland parks. Blackstone and Lego are forming a new company, Merlin Entertainments Group, to be 70 percent owned by Blackstone, the present owner of Merlin Entertainments in Europe, and 30 percent by Lego.

“This new ownership structure builds on our brand strength and provides the opportunity to continually grow as an attraction and as a destination for families with children,” John Jakobsen, president and general manager of Legoland California, said in a press release. “The Merlin Entertainments Group is one of the top attractions groups in Europe and this new partnership provides a strong platform to explore growth in the United States.”

Legoland officials promised no changes in park branding, theme or operations as the result of the sale.

In addition to Merlin Entertainments, Blackstone has theme park industry experience as a part owner of the Universal Orlando Resort, which includes Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, a three-time winner of the Theme Park Insider Award for world's best theme park. Legoland California is a three-time winner of the Theme Park Insider Award as world's best theme park for kids.

Lego has faced financial pressure in recent years, as heavy discounting in the toy business in the United States, led by the emergence of cost-conscious WalMart as the world's leading toy retailer, has squeezed margins at the Danish toy company. As a result, the company lacked the capital for major new investment or promotions for its theme parks.

The investment by Blackstone, valued at $460 million, will provided needed capital for Lego, while bringing in a deep-pocketed financial partner that, presumably, could finance expansion and better promotion for the Legoland parks.

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