The offer price from the Lego group is 60 cents a share for Merlin, which imputes a $6 billion valuation.
Lego is a privately held company still controlled by the Kirk Kristiansen family, which founded it in the 1930s. Kirkbi, the family’s investment arm, had already owned 30% of Merlin. After the deal is completed, Merlin will delist from the London Stock Exchange and be taken private. In addition to Legoland, the company operates the Madame Tussauds wax museums as well as Peppa Pig World of Play and the Coca-Cola London Eye.
In 2005, Kirkbi had sold Merlin a majority interest in the Legoland parks. Times were leaner then, but in recent recent years, sales of core building-block playsets as well as efforts to maximize the Lego brand in film and TV projects have borne fruit. In 2018, the company’s total revenue rose 4% to $5.5 billion, ahead of Mattel and Hasbro and any other toymaker in the world.
“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,” Kirkbi CEO Søren Thorup Sørensen said in a statement. “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.”
Joe Baratta, Global Head of Private Equity, Blackstone, vowed to support Merlin’s long-term objectives, “which will require significant investment to ensure its long-term success.”