In a major private equity deal KIRKBI A/S – the single family office of the LEGO owner family – is one of the main bidders. KIRKBI, Blackstone and CPPIB plan to acquire Merlin Entertainment for $6.05B. Merlin Entertainment operates more than hundreds attractions (London Dungeon, etc.), theme parks (LEGOLAND Parks, Resort Theme Parks) or hotels. After the acquisition, Merlin would be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange.
Strong development since IPO in 2013
The Merlin Entertainments Group was founded in 1998 by the UK firm Vardon, which bought attractions like London Dungeon or Sea Life. The company is a regular trade object of private equity firms: in 1999, Apax Partners supported a management buy-out. In 2014, another buy-out was financed by Hermes. Since the IPO in 2013, the group continuously enhanced its results: yearly visitors increased to 67M(+7.2M in comparison to 2013), EBITDA amounts GBP 494M (+27%) and the Earnings-per-Share are at 22.9p (+36%).
KIRKBI A/S family office as active private equity investor
The deal symbolizes a trend in the family office industry: single family offices with massive assets under management and an experienced private equity team are getting important investors in the private equity landscape. KIRKBI A/S is the private holding and investment company of Kirk Kristiansen’s family, the owner’s of Danish toy brand LEGO. KIRKBI invests in financial investments, real estate, renewables, startups (through LEGO Ventures) and private equity. The deal also strategically makes sense, since the LEGOLAND theme parks operated by Merlin are heavily contributing to the brand’s image and public perception.
Picture source: James Pond
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