Lego company acquires Madame Tussauds for $7.6 billion

Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds YouTube grab

Merlin Entertainments, owning Britain's Madame Tussauds wax museum has been acquired by a consortium led by Kirkbi in a deal that covers its valuation and debt at nearly 6 billion pounds ($7.6 billion) on Friday.

Kirkbi is the private investment company of Danish toy major Lego that is owned by the Kirk Kristiansen family.

Kirkbi's statement said the consortium will also comprise the U.S private equity group Blackstone and Canada's pension fund CPPIB.

After the deal, Kirkbi will own 50 percent of Merlin and other 50 percent will go to Blackstone and CPPIB.

The deal will be closed by the fourth quarter of 2019.

Merlin also owns London's Eye Ferris wheel and theme parks such as Alton Towers and Chessington Adventure in Britain, Italy's Gardaland and Heide Park in Germany.

Kirkbi already owns a 30 percent stake in Merlin after it acquired Legoland Parks in 2005.

Merlin is listed in the London stock exchange.

The takeover premium is more than a third of Merlin's current market value. Merlin's shares jumped 14 percent in pre-trade.

Good deal says Merlin chairman

Merlin chairman John Sunderland said Merlin directors find Kirkbi's offer a better opportunity to realize value for Merlin shareholders at an impressive valuation.

He said Merlin as a global leader in family entertainment with brands spread in 25 countries had a proven strategy that delivered for many years.

According to Kirkbi chief executive Soren Thorup Sorensen, the deal has been unanimously recommended to the shareholders. He said the acquisition will steer the combined group to a new growth phase.

Private ownership will deliver more

The Kirkbi CEO said the shared understanding of the business and culture will help Kirkbi and others to pool collective resources to equip Merlin for the next phase of growth.

He said the group is committed to elevating Legoland and other activities in Merlin to the full potential, which is best pursued under private ownership.

The deal comes after an open letter by activist investor ValueAct Capital that urged Merlin to go private.

In the letter, ValueAct said the level of investment needed in the company meant that it would be better to go into private ownership.

Merlin was founded in 1999, got listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013 and it recorded sales of 1.65 billion Pounds ($2.1 billion) in 2018 and Merlin's properties around the world attracted 67 million visitors last year.

This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.