WARWICK Castle looks set to be taken over by the owners of Lego.
Merlin Entertainments – which runs the castle on a long lease, along with the likes of Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds, Bear Grylls Adventure and The Sea Life Centre – is preparing to sell to a ‘consortium’ of investors in a deal worth around £6billion.
They include Kirkbi – owners of the world-famous Danish toy brick manufacturer – which has been an investor in Merlin since 2005. Other investors include private equity firm Blackstone and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ‘CPPIB’. Together they have formed new company Bidco.
The consortium say they plan to invest in the attractions to ‘drive growth and ensure longevity’.
The soon-to-be new owners say jobs will not be lost in the changeover – which is expected to happen by the end of the year – and it ‘greatly values the skills, knowledge and expertise’ of Merlin’s existing management and employees.
The grade I-listed castle is one of Britain’s most popular attractions welcoming around 800,000 visitors a year from around the world. The castle employs some 260 staff.
It was a stronghold until the early 17th century when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville by James I.
In 1978 the Greville family sold it to the Tussauds Group, which later sold to Merlin in 2007.
Kirkbi chief executive Søren Thorup Sørensen 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 this group of investors has the unique collective resources necessary to equip Merlin 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 new deal is set to see the consortium own 50 per cent of Merlin after the takeover and Merlin removed from the stock market.
Merlin chairman Sir John Sunderland said: “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 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.”