A STAFFORDSHIRE Moorlands tourist attraction is subject to be a part of a £6 billion takeover deal. The board of directors of Alton Towers owners' Merlin Entertainment has recommended an offer from Berkeley Bidco Limited to Merlin´s shareholders. Berkeley Bidco Limited is an entity owned by a consortium comprising Kirkbi Invest A/S, funds advised by Blackstone Core Equity Advisors L.L.C., and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board as co-investor.
Alton Towers dates back to the 8th century. Restorations in the 20th century brought the public gardens – which were opened a century before – back to life.
The site we are accustomed to today was first visualised by John Broome when he bought a big share in Alton Towers during the 1970’s after marrying the daughter of owner Denis Bagshaw. Corkscrew was the first rollercoaster to be built and was opened to the public in 1980 before growing into the international tourist attraction we know today.
Sir John Sunderland, chairman of Merlin, said of the takeover announcement: “Merlin is a global leader in location based, family entertainment, with a unique portfolio of brands and attractions spanning 25 countries and four continents, and with a proven strategy that has delivered over many years.
“The company has generated meaningful value since IPO, with significant growth in revenue, earnings and cash flow.
“Following an unsolicited approach by a consortium of investors, and after rejecting a number of their proposals, the Merlin Independent Directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realise value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation.
“We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders.”
Birthed as the Kirk Kristiansen family’s investment business, the Danish company Kirkbi founded Lego in 1932 before going on to open a chain of ‘Legoland’ theme parks, Legoland Windsor Resort being the first built outside of native Denmark in 1996.
The company have had a 30 per cent stake in Merlin since 2005 and now they plan, with the consortium, to take on all assets including the world-famous Madame Tussauds.
A spokesman for Kirkbi said: “As the long-term owner of the Lego brand and as a strategic shareholder in Merlin since 2005, we have great pride and passion for this amazing company, its management team and its employees.
“With a shared understanding of the business and its culture, we believe that this group of investors has the unique collective resources necessary to equip Merlin, including the Legoland Parks and Legoland Discovery Centres, for their next phase of growth.
“We are committed to ensuring Legoland and the other activities in Merlin reach their full potential, which we believe is best pursued under private ownership, in order to deliver fantastic experiences to visitors of all ages around the world.”
The Kirkbi spokesman said: “We do not expect to make any material change to the continued employment of the employees and management, nor to initiate any material headcount reductions within the current Merlin organisation.
“Upon completion, the existing contractual and statutory employment rights, including in relation to pensions, of all Merlin employees will be fully safeguarded.”
They added: “We expect to keep all existing Merlin attractions in the UK open.”
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