|Headquarters||Poole, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Nick Varney
(CEO and Chairman)
(Chief Financial Officer)
|Services||Family Amusement Parks|
Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd is a British operator of amusement parks and other attractions. It is the largest such company in Europe, and globally the second largest after Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Headquartered in Poole, United Kingdom, Merlin Entertainments operates over 70 attractions in 10 European countries, as well as the USA, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. Its success has been underpinned by strong partnership arrangements with both public and private sectors, with organisations as diverse as Disney and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
In 2010, the company's properties hosted an estimated 41 million guests, making it the second-most visited theme park operator in the world, behind only Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. In 2011, the company's properties hosted an estimated 46.4 million guests. While less than half of Disney's attendance figure, this represented a relatively large 13.2 percent increase from the previous year.
In December 1998, Nick Varney, Andrew Carr and the senior management team of Vardon Attractions completed a management buyout of the company to form Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd. with the backing of the private equity firm Apax Partners. Apax sold the company to another financial investor, Hermes Private Equity, in 2003.
When the Legoland theme parks came up for sale, Varney wanted to buy it but Hermes did not want to invest more capital and sold Merlin to Blackstone Group for about £110 million. Blackstone negotiated to buy control of Legoland for about £250 million and then merged it with Merlin.
Under Blackstone, Merlin went on to buy Gardaland, an Italian amusement park, and then The Tussauds Group, owner of the Madame Tussauds wax museums, for £1 billion.
The buyout of Tussauds was completed on 22 May 2007. The Tussauds Group as a separate entity has ceased to exist, with control of its attractions, including Madame Tussauds, The London Eye, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Heide Park among others, passing to Merlin.
On 17 July 2007, as part of the financing for the Tussauds deal, Merlin sold the freeholds of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds to private investor Nick Leslau and his investment firm Prestbury. Although the attractions are owned by Leslau, they continue to be operated by Merlin, leasing each back on a renewable 35-year lease. Chessington World of Adventures (the fifth Tussaud's attraction) was not included in the deal.
By arranging the sale-leaseback of the properties and giving Dubai International Capital a stake in the combined entity, Merlin was able to acquire Tussauds without the need for any further capital investments from Blackstone or its other shareholders.
As of 2007[update], negotiations reopened into the repurchase of Spain's PortAventura resort, which was built by Tussauds in 1994-5 and operated until 1998, when it was sold to Universal Studios. It has since been resold to Spanish banking group La Caixa.
Merlin had planned to go public in early 2010, but market turbulence postponed those plans. Instead, Blackstone sold 20% of the company to the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, reducing Blackstone's holding to 34%. CVC acquired another 8% from the Dubai investment fund, giving it 28% in all. KIRKBI, a Danish family trust that owns Lego, also increased its stake, emerging as the largest shareholder, with 36%. CVC paid a price that valued Merlin at £2.25 billion -- more than six times what Merlin and Legoland together were worth when Blackstone acquired them five years earlier. Blackstone's investment was by that point worth more than three and a half times what it had paid.
In late 2010, it was announced that Merlin would purchase approximately A$115 million worth of entertainment attractions located in Australia and New Zealand from Village Roadshow Theme Parks and Attractions. The sale would include Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, Oceanworld Manly, Sydney Tower and the Koala Gallery in Australia, in addition to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in New Zealand. On 3 March 2011, the deal was finalised. This was followed by the $140 million acquisition of Living and Leisure Australia which owned several attractions in the Asia-Pacific region including UnderWater World, Melbourne Aquarium, Falls Creek, Hotham Alpine Resort, Otway Fly, Illawarra Fly, Busan Aquarium and Siam Ocean World. The attractions will eventually be refurbished to match Merlin Entertainments' brands.
The company owns a grand total of 623 attractions. In 2012, it attracted 46 million visitors and currently employs 21,000 staff.
In 2013, the business recorded a £1 billion turnover for the first time the previous year.
Resort theme parks 
- Alton Towers Resort - theme park resort, with over 50 rides, live shows, two hotels, an indoor water park, conference centre, 18-hole crazy golf, historic woodlands, manor house, gardens, spa and Sea Life Aquarium
- Gardaland Resort - Italy's largest theme park, with 32 rides, major shows, a hotel, water park and Sea Life Aquarium
- Chessington World of Adventures Resort - South-East family-orientated theme park, with over 30 rides in themed lands, zoo, Sea Life Aquarium and Safari Lodge Hotel
- Heide Park Resort - Germany's third-largest theme park, with over 40 rides and attractions, live shows, a dolphin display and hotel
- Thorpe Park - South-East England theme park, with over 45 rides, 7 rollercoasters, live shows and pod hotel
- Warwick Castle - medieval experiences and the UK's most popular historical castle.
Midway attractions 
- Madame Tussauds waxwork exhibitions -
- Australia: Sydney
- Austria: Vienna
- China: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Wuhan Opens 2013
- Czech Republic: Prague (opening 2014)
- Germany: Berlin
- Indonesia: Jakarta (due 2013/14)
- Japan: Tokyo Opened 15th March 2013
- Netherlands: Amsterdam
- United Kingdom: Blackpool, London
- United States of America: Hollywood, Las Vegas (at the Venetian Resort), New York City, Washington DC, Orlando, FL due to open 2013/14
- South Korea: Busan (temporary)
- Thailand: Bangkok
- Sea Life Centres -
- Australia: Manly Cove (formerly Ocean World Manly), Melbourne (Melbourne Aquarium), Mooloolaba (UnderWater World), Sydney
- Belgium: Blankenberge
- China: Shanghai Chang Feng Ocean World (acquired 2012 from Living and Leisure Australia Group)
- Finland: Helsinki
- France: Paris Val d'Europe (nr. Disneyland Resort Paris)
- Germany: Berlin, Hanover, Königswinter, Konstanz, München, Oberhausen, Speyer and Timmendorfer Strand
- Republic of Ireland: National Sea Life Bray
- Italy: Jesolo, Rome (opening 2013)
- Netherlands: Scheveningen
- New Zealand: Auckland (Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium)
- Portugal: Porto
- South Korea: Busan Aquarium (acquired 2012, due to reopen 2013)
- Spain: Benalmádena
- Thailand: Siam Ocean World (acquired 2012, due to reopen 2013)
- United Arab Emirates: Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo (acquired 2012 from Living and Leisure Australia Group)
- United Kingdom: Blackpool, Brighton, Great Yarmouth, Manchester (opening 2013), Scarborough, Weymouth, as well as the National SEA LIFE Centre at Birmingham, Scottish SEA LIFE Centre at Loch Lomand and the SEA LIFE London Aquarium
- United States of America: Arizona (Tempe), California (Carlsbad), Minnesota (Mall of America, Minneapolis), Missouri (Kansas City), Texas (Grapevine), Orlando, FL Due 2013/14
- Seal Sanctuaries -
- The Dungeons:
- 'Eye' attractions -
- Australia: Sydney Tower Eye with 4D Cinema and SkyWalk at the Sydney Tower Eye
- United Kingdom: Blackpool Tower Eye with 4D Cinema, EDF Energy London Eye with 4D Cinema, Weymouth SEA LIFE Tower
- United States of America: Pepsi Globe (due to open at Meadowlands shopping mall) Also, Orlando Eye Due 2013/14
- Australian Tree Top Adventures -
- Illawarra Fly - the longest and highest elevated treetop walk in New South Wales, Australia
- Otway Fly - Otway Fly Treetop Adventures offers both The Otway Fly Treetop Walk and The Otway Fly Zip Line Tour
- The Blackpool Tower - 158m tall tower in Lancashire, England featuring The Blackpool Tower Circus, Blackpool Tower Ballroom and Jungle Jim's at The Blackpool Tower as well as the aforementioned Dungeon and Blackpool Tower Eye attractions
- Earth Explorer - a science based attraction, focusing on the way the elements shape our planet, based at Ostend, Belgium
Legoland parks and Discovery Centres 
- LEGOLAND - A brand Lego-themed theme parks that operate across the globe.
- Denmark: Billund
- Germany: Deutschland
- Japan: Legoland Japan Nagoya Due to open 2015
- South Korea: Legoland Korea Chuncheon Due to open 2015
- Dubai: Legoland Dubai, On hold
- Malaysia: Malaysia
- United Kingdom: Windsor
- United States of America: California (and LEGOLAND Waterpark), Florida (and LEGOLAND Waterpark)
- LEGOLAND Discovery Centre - Indoor Legoland parks.
Ski resorts 
Hotels & business centres 
Merlin owns and operates eight hotels -
- Alton Towers Hotel, Alton Towers, Staffordshire, England
- Hotel Legoland, Legoland, Billund, Denmark
- Hotel Legoland, Legoland, Carlsbad, California, United States of America
- Hotel Legoland, Legoland, Windsor, England
- Gardaland Resort Hotel, Gardaland, Lake Garda, Italy
- LEGOLAND Holiday Village, Legoland, Günzberg, Germany
- Port Royal Hotel, Heide Park, Soltau, Germany
- Splash Landings Hotel, Alton Towers, Staffordshire, England
They also hold the freehold two further hotels -
- The Crash Pad, Thorpe Park, Chertsey, Surrey, England
- Safari Lodge Holiday Inn, Chessington World of Adventures, Chessington, London, England
Conference facilities are located at -
- Alton Towers Conference Centre, Staffordshire, England
In addition, the group owns and operates the Alton Towers Spa at the Alton Towers Resort and *camping in the grounds of Warwick Castle, which opened in 2013.
Merlin Products 
Merlin have many Annual Pass systems, the primary purpose of them is to offer multiple visits within a one year period, the Annual Passes can either provide entry to one or all attractions.
The Annual Passes covering one attraction are:
- Alton Towers Annual Pass (Standard and Premium)
- SEA LIFE Annual Pass (Standard only)
- SEA LIFE Annual Pass + London Aquarium (Standard only)
- Chessington World of Adventures Annual Pass (Standard only)
- Thorpe Park Annual Pass (Standard only)
- Warwick Castle Annual Pass (Standard only)
- LEGOLAND Annual Pass (Premium only)
The Annual Passes covering all attractions within their home country are:
- Merlin Annual Pass - UK (Standard and Premium)
- Merlin Annual Pass - USA
- Merlin Annual Pass - Australia and New Zealand
- Merlin Jahreskarte - Deutschland
Merlin Events London manages London Dungeons, Madame Tussauds and Sealife London Aquarium for Events. The attractions are available for evening hire and can accommodate Dinner Dances, Cocktail Parties and Awards Dinners.
Attractions & Products 
- "AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report 2010". Kris Harris. 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-03-29.[dead link]
- TEA/AECOM (2012). "AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report 2011". Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- David Carey and John E. Morris, King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone (Crown 2010), pp. 311-12.
- "Tussauds firm bought in £1bn deal". BBC News. 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- Merlin Entertainments, leading name in location based, family entertainment - A New Force in Global Leisure[dead link]
- "Alton Towers sold in £622m deal". BBC News. 2007-07-17. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- King of Capital, p. 313.
- "Cypress Gardens Sold to Legoland". January 15, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
- CVC Capital Partners press release[dead link], 24 June 2010.
- King of Capital, p. 314.
- AAP (17 December 2010). "Village Roadshow sells Sydney Attractions". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
- AAP (3 March 2011). "Plans for a Madame Tussauds in Sydney". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- Ooi, Teresa (20 December 2011). "Merlin Entertainments Group conjures $140m James Packer bid". The Australian. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
- Danckert, Sarah (13 February 2012). "Merlin ready to wrap up Living and Leisure deal". The Australian. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
- "Locations". Merlin Entertainments. Retrieved 4 June 2012.