The Danish billionaire family that owns Lego is leading a consortium to take over Legoland, Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds owner Merlin Entertainments.

The deal by Kirkbi, a 29% shareholder, values the UK theme park operator at £4.8 billion.

Kirkbi has maintained the strategic stake since its sale of Legoland Parks to Merlin in 2005.

Merlin, founded in 1999, is the world’s second biggest attractions operator behind Disney, operating 130 attractions, 19 hotels and six holiday villages in 25 countries including Legoland resorts.

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 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.”

Kirkbi CEO Soren Thorup Sorensen 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.”

Joe Baratta, global head of private equity at investment giant Blackstone – part of the investment group – said: “We are prepared to commit the substantial resources required to support the long-term objectives of Merlin, which will require significant investment to ensure its long-term success.”

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