The Tussauds Group
The Tussauds Group is now part of Merlin Entertainments, the world's second largest leisure group, after Disney. It is based in Poole, Dorset from where it manages a portfolio of brands and over 50 attractions including the Madame Tussauds waxworks, Legoland Parks, Sea Life Centres, Gardaland in Italy, The Dungeons, The London Eye, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and Chessington World of Adventures.
Between 1900 and 1977, Madame Tussaud's was the main asset for the Tussauds group. This changed in 1978 when the business was acquired by S. Pearson and Son, now Pearson PLC. Chessington Zoo was already owned by Pearson and became a Tussauds attraction. In the same year Warwick Castle was acquired. Rock Circus opened in the London Pavilion in 1989. Several small acquisitions were made before 1990, when Alton Towers was bought for £60 million.
In 1995, PortAventura in Spain opened, in which Tussauds had a 40% stake and managed the theme park. The stake was sold in 1998 to enable the purchase of Thorpe Park, in South East England - management of PortAventura ceased with its sale.
In 1999, after being part of Pearson for twenty years, Charterhouse Development Capital acquired the group. In 2000, the London Eye launched, owned by British Airways but managed by Tussauds. In 2001 the group purchased Heide Park in Germany, and Rock Circus was closed.
In 2005, the group was sold to Dubai International Capital for £800 million ($1.5 billion). In 2006, the group purchased the London Eye outright.
In March 2007, the group was sold to the Blackstone Group, in a £1bn deal. DIC will hold 20% of the combined group. The company will be combined with the Merlin Entertainments Group and is completing a harmonisation process. The Tussauds Group will proceed as Merlin Entertainments Group.
As of May 22, 2007 the merger with Merlin Entertainment has been completed and The Tussauds Group has ceased to exist as a separate entity.