Lego owners bid to take over Legoland's owner

June 28, 2019, 8:35 AM · Okay, I can see where this headline might look a bit confusing. But many long-time Theme Park Insider readers might know that the Legoland theme parks are not owned by the company that makes Lego building toys but by a British attractions company called Merlin Entertainments.

Merlin also owns Madame Tussauds and a bunch of other theme attractions around the world, making them one of the top themed entertainment attraction businesses in the world by annual attendance, according to the annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index report.

Now the owners behind the Lego toy company have launched a bid to take over Merlin, which, when completed, would mean that Lego (at least indirectly) would own Legoland.

The group is bidding £5.9 billion for Merlin, according to The Guardian. Merlin reportedly has accepted the offer from the bidders, who are led by Kirkbi, the private investment company owned by the Kristiansen family that controls Lego. Other partners are the ubiquitous investment firm Blackstone and a Canadian pension fund.

Everything is awesome, indeed.

Replies (8)

June 28, 2019 at 10:29 AM

I think this can only be a good thing for the Legoland parks. If the deal goes through, maybe each of the parks can see some of the volume and TLC that the original location seems to be getting.

June 28, 2019 at 6:48 PM

Merlin Entertainments is considered the world's second largest operator of theme parks and attractions based on attendance and the deal is happening after months of press on their stock being undervalued. Merlin Entertainments did accept the bid, which was more than what was reported originally. The company operates its gates under 3 divisions: Merlin Midway Attractions, which includes their location based entertainment attractions such as Madame Tussauds, SeaLife Aquariums, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres and The Dungeons; LEGOLAND Theme Parks, which oversees all of the LEGOLAND Theme Parks worldwide including the Danish original, and Resort Theme Parks, which operate their regional theme oark resorts including Alton Towers, Gardaland, Heide Park, Chessington World, Thorpe Park. Note half their global attendance is from their Midway Attractions and all of their theme parks include on-site hotels. Merlin Entertainments will now go private once again.

June 28, 2019 at 1:55 PM

Anyone clear on why Lego (and companions) want to take over Merlin?
Is there a deeper reason than just money?

June 28, 2019 at 6:14 PM

I imagine control might also be a big part of it. Better control of the image presented at the legoland parks, and better able to push Merlin to intergrate more lego attractions into their other attractions (like how their Sea Life and Dungeons brands have infiltrated their full-fat theme parks, or how there's a Dungeons in the Blackpool Tower).

June 28, 2019 at 5:07 PM

Also, an "activist" investor in Merlin was pushing for a take-over of the company. Given the value of the Legoland theme parks to Lego's brand, I could see why Lego's owners would prefer taking Merlin private, under their control, over taking their chances with some other investor gaining control of Merlin and the Legoland parks.

June 29, 2019 at 12:31 PM

I don't understand how Merlin, with a lot of small attractions, would be #2 in the TEA report? Unless this agrees with the the theory of Chinese businessman Wang Jianlin, who in 2016 boasted that a pack of wolves (meaning his group of small attractions) will defeat a tiger, namely Shanghai Disneyland. That turned out not to be true, with Wang's pack of wolves retreating with their tails between their legs.

June 30, 2019 at 5:46 AM

Thanks for the explanation, makes sense to have it out of investors hands.
@Disfan Merlin is huge and I'm sure TEA is right. A ton of capital city's over the world have 1 or 2 of these tourist traps (Tussauds, Wheel, Dungeon, Aquarium) and there are 8 Lego theme parks at the moment and 3 to open in the future. There are 23 discovery centers (glorified shops) and some random theme parks who are not Lego based.
There are over 120 attractions in 25 countries. Non of these cost anything close to develop as a Disney or Universal theme parks and bring in a ton of people on a daily basis.

June 30, 2019 at 8:40 AM

>>>I don't understand how Merlin, with a lot of small attractions, would be #2 in the TEA report?

4 Top Tier UK theme parks (Chessington, Thorpe Park, Legoland Windsor, Alton Towers), Blackpool Tower, Three "Eye" ferris wheels, Warwick Casltle, Gardaland, Hiede-Park, 11 Dungeon locations, 22 Madame Taussauds, 49 Sea Life locations, 7 other full fledged Legoland attractions, 2 Ski resorts, 22 smaller Lego attractions.... And we're still not even through all the list.

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